Skip to main content

Full text of "A V.A.D. in France"

See other formats


FRANCE 




A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 







WINTER QUARTERS : THE TEMPORARY HOME OF A MEDICAL OFFICER 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 



BY 

OLIVE DENT 

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY 
R. M. SAVAGE AND OTHERS 



LONDON 
GRANT RICHARDS LTD. 

ST. MARTIN'S STREET 
1917 



JD 



Printed in Great Britain by the Complete Frew, West Norwood, London 



TO 
ALL THOSE BRAVE BOYS 

WHOM IT HAS BEEN 
MY PRIVILEGE AND PLEASURE 

TO NURSE 
I DEDICATE THIS BOOK 



< 51:1 30 



My thanks are due to the Editors oj " The Daily 
Mail," "The Evening News," "The Yorkshire 
Eiening Post" and "The Lady" for permission 
to use some matter a small part only which has 
appeared in their pages. 



CONTENTS 



CHAP. PAGE 

I. A KITCHENER NURSE 13 

II. EN AVANT 19 

III. A CHILLY RECEPTION 27 

IV. CAMP NURSING 31 
V. " CONVOY IN " 42 

VI. ACTIVE SERVICE IN THE SNOW 56 

VII. FROM MY DIARY 62 

VIII. A B.E.F. CHRISTMAS 80 

IX. HOUSEKEEPING ON ACTIVE SERVICE 90 

X. THE TRIALS OF A HOME SISTER 102 

XI. B.E.F. NICKNAMES 108 

XII. " BLIGHTY " 114 

XIII. HEROES IN THEIR CARPET SLIPPERS 187 

XIV. RED CROSS NEEDLEWORK 146 
XV. OUR CONCERTS 154 

XVI. ENGLISH AS SHE IS SPOKEN 162 

(WITH THE B.E.F.) 

XVII. SOME OF MY BOYS 169 

XVIII. ACTIVE SERVICE IN THE RAIN 182 

XIX. SOUNDS OF HOSPITAL LIFE 191 

9 



CONTENTS 



CHAP. PAGE 

XX. MORE FROM MY DIARY 197 

XXI. WAR-TIME MARKETING 217 

XXII. HISTORY MAKERS 226 

XXIII. OUR BLUE-BOY MAIL 239 

XXIV. UGH ! 256 
XXV. O.A.S. HOSPITALITY 264 

XXVI. NIGHT NURSING WITH THE B.E.F. 270 

XXVII. UNDER CANVAS 288 

XXVIII. ACTIVE SERVICE KITCHENS 297 

XXIX. MY DIARY AGAIN 309 

XXX. A BIG PUSH JULY 1916 320 

XXXI. " PROCEED FORTHWITH " 340 



10 



ILLUSTRATIONS 



PAGE 

WINTER QUARTERS : THE TEMPORARY HOME OF A 
MEDICAL OFFICER Frontispiece 

A " LINE " OF WARDS 33 

TOMMY'S IMPRESSION 45 

A SUNNY DAY 65 

A " BAIRNSFATHER " BUNK 93 

THE "BLIGHTY" SMILE AN L.T.A. CASE 117 

THE D.D.M.S. PAYS HIS OFFICIAL VISIT 155 

THE ORDERLY OFFICER TO THE RESCUE 187 

A EUSOL FOOT-BATH 205 

AN OPERATION AT AN ARMY VETERINARY CAMP 213 

A WINDY NIGHT 257 

A NIGHT BIRD 283 

"PETTICOAT LANE" 293 

NOCTURNAL INTRUDERS 315 

A CORNER OF THE NURSING QUARTERS 341 



11 



CHAPTER I 
A KITCHENER NURSE 

" What have I done for you, 
England, my England ? 
What is there I would not do, 
England, my own ? " 

WAR ! England at war ! It couldn't be. 
It must be some frightful mistake. War was 
the prerogative, the privilege, the amusement 
of the vague, restless, little kingdoms, of the 
small, quarrelsome, European States and far- 
distant, half-breed peoples. War was an 
unreality not to be brought to our land, not 
to be in any way associated with England, 
with our country. 

And yet and yet there was the dreadful, 
numbing, awful news in the paper, and news- 
papers would not dare publish anything 
untrue which was prejudicial to the common 
weal. People with serious expression and 

13 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

tortured thoughts cried to cope with the 
gravity, the enormity, the surprise of the 
situation. The dim, almost nebulous fear 
of years had actually materialised. England 
was at war ! Fire, slaughter, dripping 
bayonet, shrieking shell, how w r ere they 
going to affect us ? What was to be 
done ? 

One looked at one's dear ones at home with 
a passion of over-mastering love. One caught 
one's self looking at strangers in the street, 
on the bus, and in the railway train, at that 
worn little mother with the tired, trouble- 
haunted eyes, the laughing girl-child with 
the soft, rounded limbs, the crooning baby 
with his whole, wondrous future before him. 
Who was to defend them all ? For the 
first time in a happy, even life one felt bitterly 
resentful of one's sex. Defence was the 
only consideration in the popular mind in 
those early August days. And defence was 
a man's job, and I, unfortunately, was a 
woman. 

Some one quoted Kingsley to be fiercely 
contradicted. True enough, the women 
would weep, and weep in full measure, but 
14 



A KITCHENER NURSE 

that was no reason for an apathetic accepta- 
tion. Meantime there was surely work to 
be done. 

But what work ? 

Some few of us registered the names of, 
and arranged visits to, the families of soldiers 
and sailors immediately called up for service, 
and the sight of those pitiful, pathetic, 
utterly helpless families made our hearts 
ache and strengthened our determination to 
be up and doing. There came a call for 
men and more men. The regulars and the 
reservists had marched away to the war. 
Motley bands of recruits in ill-assorted mufti 
fell into line and nobly ambled off to be made 
into soldiers. 

No call had yet come for nurses. And yet 
the New Army of men would need a New 
Army of nurses. Why not go and learn to 
be a nurse while the Kitchener men were 
learning to be soldiers ? 

The nursing profession was at that time 
regarded as very inhospitable to outsiders. 
No doubt we should be despised and abused, 
considered as very raw recruits and given 
only the donkey- work to do. Well, it would 

15 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

not be done any the less efficiently, through 
having studied as much as possible the 
science and art of nursing. Besides, weren't 
the regulars, from mildly despising the 
Kitchener men, veering round to a well- 
merited appreciation and trust ? That 
might happen in nursing. At any rate, 
auxiliary nursing service would assuredly be 
required. I would be a Kitchener nurse. 

Like every other woman at the time I 
reviewed my own particular case and weighed 
up matters. I had had a two-years' course 
of hygiene and physiology in college, a half- 
yearly session at advanced physiology later, 
had done St. John's Ambulance work for 
two or three years, and, provided I had 
a good aim in view, am what school- 
boys term a good swotter. Not a great 
deal to go on, perhaps. Still it was a 
beginning. 

I resurrected my nursing books, bought 
others, re-attended St. John's Ambulance 
lectures and practices, and was fortunate in 
joining a detachment whose members used 
to visit hospitals on observation tours, and 
also used to enter civil hospitals for service, 
16 



A KITCHENER NURSE 

during as many hours of the day as could be 
arranged. 

If, at the time, I should have needed any 
spur to my enthusiasm, if I had needed any 
strengthening of my determination to nurse, 
I should have received such fillip in plenty. 
For Belgian refugees soon came to us, 
piteous little bands of people made apathetic 
by an exhausting succession of stupendous 
sorrows and fled from pillaged houses with 
all their world's goods held in a string bag 
or a bundled sheet. They told us of those 
terrible days on the packed jetty at Ostend 
where men died and babies were born and 
people went mad. Frail old ladies, such as 
Rembrandt immortalised, were there, old 
men rich in years and poor in physical 
strength, young girls with terror-laden eyes, 
a blind boy. Think of it, of the horror of 
hearing the first dreadful news of the on- 
coming of Uhlans, of the interminable 
stumbling along the white, sun-baked roads, 
of physical sufferings, of anxieties untellable, 
of a confused journey to a strange country 
where even the sounds were unfamiliar, all 
in the maddening, inexorable darkness. 

B 17 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

And then our own fighting men came back 
from the war, our boys with shattered limbs, 
gaping flesh wounds, bruised, battered bodies. 

" Ever the faith endures, 

England, my England : 
Take and break us : we are yours, 
England, my own." 

England had taken and broken them, 
and still there were so very many of us women 
doing nothing of value, nothing that counted. 
Events were proving that it was abroad 
where nurses were more urgently required. 
The war zones of the Western Front and 
Gallipoli were busy. Personal inactivity 
was galling. I had no ties. I could give my 
whole time to nursing, so disliked the thought 
of auxiliary, part-time work in England. I 
volunteered for foreign service, was accepted, 
inoculated, vaccinated and asked, in August 
1915, to undertake service in Egypt. For 
private reasons I was compelled regretfully 
to refuse, but enthusiastically accepted ser- 
vice in France in the late summer of 1915. 



18 



CHAPTER II 
EN AVANT 

Monday. Spent the morning at St. John's 
Ambulance Headquarters where we were 
provided with arm brassards, identity discs, 
and identity certificates in place of passports, 
the latter most unflattering documents con- 
taining a terse, crude and unvarnished 
account of our personal appearance, age and 
address. The morning was bitterly raw and 
cold, but not even the order to prepare for 
life under canvas damped or chilled our 
ardour. Spent the afternoon at the stores in 
a chaos of other V.A.D.s, pukka nurses, khaki 
men and confused assistants. Bought a 
camp bed, camp chair, camp bath and camp 
basin, they all look refractory and sullen, 
a ground sheet, a sleeping-bag, gum-boots, 
an oil-stove and a collapsible lantern. 

Tuesday. Our party of a hundred V.A.D.s 

19 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

members of St. John's Ambulance Asso- 
ciation, St. John's Ambulance Brigade and 
the British Red Cross Society left Charing 
Cross Station this morning. It may be the 
station of Infinite Sorrows, of heart-breaking 
farewells, but our going, at any rate, was 
quite unheroic. 

The place was very crowded with nurses, 
khaki men and officers, and a sprinkling of 
business passengers, and there may have been 
tears and piteous partings, but most of us 
were too busy attending to hand luggage, 
camp kits, vouchers and corner seats to be 
either observant or to listen for anything in 
the minor key. 

We had a very good and very quick 
crossing with not even a floating bottle to 
deceive ourselves that an enemy submarine 
was near. Only warships, dull grey from 
funnel to watermark, cruised around, and 
our escort hugged us close. I had been 
thrilled a few days before in reading the 
account of a w r ell-known journalist who 
described himself sitting on deck in his life- 
saving jacket. He must have had a bad 
attack of " cold feet," for in our case such a 
20 



EN AVANT 

precaution was not taken by any one, not 
even by one of our most popular princes who 
happened to be aboard. 

Arrived at Boulogne, the passengers 
" travelling Military " were straightway dis- 
embarked, and we nurses went to an hotel 
where we were allocated to various hospitals, 
all in Northern France, and to which we 
were to proceed on the morrow. It was here 
we saw a new aspect of hotel life. I shared 
a room with a girl I had never before seen. 
It was seven feet by nine, with a sloping roof 
having two rafters and a skylight, and with 
lime-washed walls. Ce n'est pas magnifique 
mais c'est la guerre. War accommodation, 
and the bill next morning was a war bill ! 

As we went downstairs a small crowd of 
other V.A.D.s were standing round a bed- 
room door shrieking with laughter. They 
invited us to come along to " their room " 
and then we laughed too. The room looked 
like a picture after Hogarth. It contained 
five beds, three of them fat, French, wooden 
beds, two of them little iron ones, and it had 
lately been vacated, or rather was about to 
be vacated, by some officers. The bed- 

21 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

clothes were lying about in piled heaps, 
there was a kilt, a Sam Browne, a couple of 
revolvers, a tin of tobacco, some cigarettes, 
haversacks and spurs and, tied to one of the 
bed posts, ... a huge hound. He stood 
with drooping ears and tail, looking so very 
sheepishly and apologetically at us that we 
all laughed helplessly. Some one controlled 
herself sufficiently to pat him, and he whacked 
a great tail strenuously from side to side 
looking more ludicrous than ever. . . . An 
Active -service bedroom, evidently. 

We had tea at a cafe beloved of peace- 
time days. The room was crowded with 
khaki, the cakes as good as ever and the 
proprietor and staff casual as ever at pre- 
senting Vaddition and taking pay. We 
waited so long for our addition, that we 
thought we might be charged ground-rent, 
and we amused ourselves with the French 
poodle who begs for oblong pieces of sugar 
to be placed on his nose sugar was plenti- 
ful then ! at the " brass hats " foraging for 
eclairs and petits fours with the pertinacity 
and perseverence peculiar to a brass hat, 
and at the variety in mackintoshes and 
22 



EN AVANT 

trench-coats some with a flair, some en 
Princesse. some belted, some collared in 
lambskin, some high to the ears like a wimple 
and so on. As we returned to the hotel, 
we shop-gazed, and became enamoured of a 
delectable blouse in ivory crepe-de-chine 
with tiny, lapis lazuli buttons. Then we 
scolded ourselves, for this was only our 
second day in uniform, and whipped the 
offending Eve out of us. 

Wednesday. We walked along to the 
Casino passing on our way the garage where 
were drawn up in a line upwards of a hundred 
ambulance cars of all makes and many of 
them gifts, e.g., from the British Farmers, 
from the County of Berkshire, from the 
Salvation Army, and so on. It was a very 
good sight to see so many fine cars smartly 
drawn up with their bonnets in line as though 
some one had called out briskly, and in 
stentorian tones, " 'Shun. By the left, 
DRESS." 

On by tram to Wimereux. Passed a com- 
pany of British " bantams " marching along 
singing to the accompaniment of a mouth 
organ, and with a rag-tag and bob-tail 

23 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

following of bare-legged Boulounnaise fisher- 
girls and old men, zinc buckets on arm. We 
wondered idly what the British Tommies 
first thought of things, of the Boulounnaise 
women with woollen pants to ankles, and 
bare feet slipped into heelless sabots, of the 
mistress of the charcuterie who dusts the 
sausages displayed in the shop window with 
a feather duster, of the little boys called in by 
maman from play and deprived of their 
black, sateen pinafore to be arrayed in out- 
door costume of goat skin coat, Homburg 
hat, buttoned boots and socks, and of what 
the French first thought of the British 
Tommies especially, say, on occasion when 
in throaty unison they announced : 

" Ooah, it's 'snice ter get up V iK moarnin\ 
But ifs snicer ter lie in bed ; " 

or when in mournful accents they declared : 

" Old Soldiers never die, never die, never die, 
Old Soldiers never die, 
They fade away" 

Without doubt it must be difficult for the 
French and certainly an occasional strain 
24 



EN AVANT 

on their entente cordiale feelings and intent 
to have their towns, their trams, their cafes, 
their restaurants, their streets and shops 
overrun with us British as is the case in 
Boulogne, Havre, Rouen, Abbeville, Amiens 
and most of the towns of Northern France. 
We English would assuredly have found it 
so if French people had been garrisoned at 
York and Leeds, Birmingham and Leicester. 
One wonders if we would have been as for- 
bearing, as gracious, as friendly as our 
neighbours are under the circumstances. 

At Wimereux we climbed up to the ceme- 
tery, which has been extended to include a 
military section for the fallen British. Long 
lines of smoothed graves, each headed with a 
little wooden cross, it is a picture of 
majestic simplicity, of infinite pathos, noth- 
ing tawdry, nothing trivial, nothing but the 
grandeur of simplicity. We think of the 
poor, maimed bodies, all that remain of that 
grace of English youth and comeliness, of 
the beauty that is consumed away, of man 
turned to destruction. We think of Time 
who unheedingly dims the proud stories of 
those valiant heroes. Each little, smoothed 

25 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

grave means a tragedy, a gap in some home 
across those dark waters. Our age has paid 
its price for the nation and the race. Those 
are the dead who won our freedom. May 
we cheat Time, and ever retain the thought. 
May it compel us to greater patience, greater 
fortitude, greater forbearance in the work 
that is to come. 

We turn from the graves and leave our 
dead to their bravely-earned rest on the 
little wind-swept hill. May they sleep in 
peace. 



26 



CHAPTER III 
A CHILLY RECEPTION 

WE left the Gare Maritime shortly after 2 p.m. 
The train loitered leisurely onwards for the 
next twelve hours. Some V.A.D.s went to 
Etaples where the big S.J.A.B. hospital is 
situated, some went to Havre, some to Le 
Treport, some to Versailles to the Palace 
Hospital there, some to Rouen. 

The journey was interesting enough while 
daylight lasted. We waved to all the British 
Tommies we passed, and they cheered and 
waved energetically in return, and we inter- 
rupted two games of Soccer by throwing 
from the carriage window illustrated papers 
and cigarettes. 

At Noyella two French Red Cross nurses 
came with collecting boxes and, later, dis- 
tributed bread and coffee to the troops. 
One, who happened to be dressed in indoor 

27 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

costume, white from head to foot, looked 
very dainty and charming as she stood 
smiling good-bye, and to her a disappointed 
Tommy called in mock angry tones, " Arrah, 
begone wi' ye, ye little baste. Niver a drap 
nor a crumb hae ye geen mi. Wait till ye 
come to ould Oireland," the which she 
evidently regarded as some gracious speech 
for she beamed on him and smiled anew. 

Here, too, two French officers descending 
from our compartment flicked out a golosh 
belonging to one of our girls. The sight of a 
brilliant, blue-clad, gold-braided, medal-em- 
blazoned figure bowing and presenting a 
characteristically English, size-six golosh on 
the palm of his hand was deliciously funny. 

At the end of our railway journey we 
learnt that the hospital to which two of us 
were allocated was a tent hospital situated 
on a racecourse three or four miles out of the 
town. We climbed into a waiting ambulance 
car, the mackintosh flap at the back was 
dropped, and we shot off into Stygian dark- 
ness cheery ! Once we heard " Croix Rouge 
m'sieu," and saw a flash of a lantern 
evidently some " barrier." Then the car 
28 



A CHILLY RECEPTION 

pulled up, and we tumbled out to be received 
by the night superintendent nurse. Still 
more cheery! 

We were taken to the night duty room, 
and in about three minutes time were wonder- 
ing why on earth we were so consummately 
foolish as to volunteer for nursing service. 
It was 2.30 in the morning, the door of the 
duty room was swollen and would not close, 
an icy draught played along the floor, the 
kettle refused to boil for some time, though 
finally some very weak tea was made. We 
were most impolitely hungry, for we had not 
been able to buy food on the railway journey, 
and we could cheerfully have eaten twice 
the number of meagre-potted-meat-plentiful- 
bread sandwiches provided. The sister 
lucidly and emphatically explained to us 
that she had no idea what " people were 
thinking about " to send out such girls as we, 
girls who had not come from any " training 
school," girls who had " not had any hospital 
training," what use could we possibly be ? 

We had before heard unheeded tales of the 
edged tongues of women of the nursing pro- 
fession, tales to which we refused to give 

29 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

credence. That early morning hungry, cold, 
tired, with little fight in us, and no inclina- 
tion to dilate on our own various qualifica- 
tions, we came within an ace of believing 
them. Fortunately, however, neither of us 
were either overwhelmed with, or impressed 
by, our manifold shortcomings. Also we 
were so lacking in awe as to prefer having 
more faith in the knowledge of the Govern- 
ment than the opinion (or possibly the pre- 
judice) of an individual nurse. To the credit, 
too, of the said nurse and her profession let 
me record that, in less than a month's time 
she was a staunch friend, and between us all 
there was mutual liking and respect. 

Our meal ended, we were taken to a wooden 
hut which we learned afterwards had just 
been finished that day, carpenter's tools, 
trestles and shavings were lying round. In 
each of our bunks was a camp bed, a soap 
box on which stood a wash-bowl and a 
candle, all lent us because our kit had 
not got through. We sternly shut out all 
thoughts of our home bedroom and bed, and 
hurried into the camp apology. 

Thursday. On duty in the wards. 
30 



CHAPTER IV 
CAMP NURSING 

THE first day's duty in a camp hospital is 
a perplexing, nonplussing affair. Primarily, 
I wasn't certain where I was. For a bird's 
eye view of the camp would have revealed a 
forest of marquees and a webbing of tent- 
ropes. The marquees sometimes clustered 
so close that the ropes of two roofs on the 
adjoining side were not pegged to the ground, 
but were tied overhead, the one to the other, 
so supporting each other and saving space. 
Between such dual marquees was a tarpau- 
lin passage, usually spoken of as a tunnel. 

Each row of marquees was known as a 
" line," and named as a letter in the alphabet. 
Thus " A " line consisted of eight or nine 
tents, known as Al, A2, A3, and so on. All 
these marquees were exactly alike, and as we 
nurses passed from one to the other several 

31 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

times in the morning, it was at first a little 
difficult to know whether one was in Al, A3, 
or A5. 

Later, one grew to recognise each by certain 
little signs and symbols, this one because the 
floor squeaked, that one because a small hole 
was burnt in the side, that one because it 
had a little rent near the door, that one 
because it had had an extra dose of colouring 
material, used to render the marquees less 
noticeable and also waterproof, and that one 
because it was nearest the sisters' duty bell- 
tent. 

The early morning's work consisted of 
making twenty beds, dusting twenty-four 
lockers, taking twenty-four temperatures, 
and tidying the wards. Then came a snack 
lunch, and a change of apron followed by 
the giving of the necessary medicines, a 
couple of inhalations, the applying of two or 
three fomentations, a small eusol dressing, 
the dispensing of one or two doses of castor 
oil, and the cleaning of a linen cupboard. 

Then came the boys' dinner for which 
most of the up-patients went to the (marquee) 
dining-hall, leaving only two boys sitting at 
32 



CAMP NURSING 

the ward table. They ate their meal with 
the keenest Tommy Atkins enjoyment, heads 
low over the business, knife and fork plying 
energetically over stewed rabbit and baked 
potatoes. 

Watching them was a bed-patient with 
acute gastritis and on "no diet." Silence, 
but for the hardworked cutlery and then in 
the very driest of Cockney accents came the 
bed-patient's remark : " Ite, drink and be 
merry, fer ter-merrer yer snuffs it." 

In the afternoon, more medicines were to 
be given, the washing of patients was to be 
done and the beds made. At five o'clock 

came tea and off-duty. 

* * * * 

The newcomer to a camp hospital finds 
matters very different to what she has been 
accustomed in England ; no hot water, no 
taps, no sinks, no fires, no gas-stoves, a 
regular Hood's " November " of negation. 
She probably finds the syringe has no suction, 
that all the cradles are in use, and there is 
none for the boy with bad trench feet, that 
there are only six wash-bowls for the washing 
of a hundred and forty patients, and that 

35 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

there is nothing but a testing stand, and a 
small syringe with which to help the medical 
officer through a dozen typhoid inoculations. 

These drawbacks seem a little depressing 
and overwhelming at first, but the adaptable 
girl soon learns to overcome such minor 
difficulties. None of them are insurmount- 
able, and if she conspires with sorry Fate she 
can soon mould things nearer to her heart's 
desire. 

Thus, the absence of taps, hot water, and 
sinks one chafes against for two or three days, 
and then gets accustomed to the existing 
conditions and substitutes. The syringe will 
have better suction if the piston be wrapped 
round with a few strands of white cotton 
from one of the boys' hussifs. Two boards 
tied together with strings in a V shape can 
keep up the bedclothes as effectually as a 
cradle, while the needle of the inoculation 
syringe can be sterilised by holding it with a 
pair of forceps in a test tube of boiling water. 

On active service it is a case of improvising, 
improvising, improvising, and one article in 
its time plays many parts. Thus the other 
day a hut door was being propped open with 
36 



CAMP NURSING 

a tin of bully beef the beef being subse- 
quently eaten at the night orderlies' supper. 
Once, too, we had an enamelled pie-dish, a 
curious thing for us to possess ; no one knew 
how we came to have it. That pie- dish was 
used for the sterilisation of instruments, as a 
wash bowl, filled with moss as a receptacle 
for forest flowers, for fomentations, once for 
the making of a linseed poultice and as a 
bain-marie. The only thing I never saw it 
used for, was the baking of a pie. 

Its uses, by the way, I haven't given in 
chronological order ! 

The casual reader may wonder that there 
should be much improvisation and some 
people may affirm that the correct equipment 
ought always to be there. Such a statement, 
however, would be an utterly thoughtless 
one. The correct equipment is not always 
either imperative or essential. And with an 
army, only the essential in the way of equip- 
ment counts. Brains and forethought, or 
otherwise, common sense, must substitute 
immense amounts of baggage. 

Incidentally, the curtailing of baggage 
explains much of the " pinching " and bor- 

37 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

rowing that goes on in the Army, a practice 
to which every one sooner or later descends, 
no, I mean resorts. The private property 
of an individual is sacred, the Government 
property is only held on a very insecure lease. 

Thus if one wants paraldehyde in E lines, 
and F lines has some, then obtain it. If A 
lines has a syringe, and your need is too 
desperate to await getting it through a 
proper channel, secure G's syringe. If you 
want paraffin for the heating of a patient's 
feed and D has more than they require, 
beg, borrow or steal D's surplus, but get it. 
Of course, playing the game as one does, 
the paraldehyde goes back immediately, the 
syringe is sterilised and returned, you render 
to Caesar the paraffin that is Caesar's directly 
you get your daily issue. Failing this, you 
are " a rotter " and the whole camp soon 
knows the fact and safeguards itself against 
you. 

" Pinching " is always quite an accepted 
condition of affairs. Meeting an orderly 
carrying some planks of wood on his shoulders 
the other morning, I said in somewhat slip- 
shod fashion, " And what are you making 
38 



CAMP NURSING 

yourself, Smith ? " " As usual, sister, I'm 
making myself a thief," came the un- 
hesitating reply. All the consolation the 
late owner of any article may receive is the 
overworked tag, " You're unlucky, mate. 
You shouldn't have joined." 

Active-service nursing, like all other nurs- 
ing, is intensely fascinating and interesting. 
The men come practically straight from the 
trenches, and are deeply graceful for, and 
appreciative of, the cosy beds, the nicely- 
cooked food, the absence of vermin, the 
cleanliness and brightness of the wards, and 
our attempt to make them comfortable and 
happy. They have not grown irritable with 
the tediousness of long nursing or wearisome 
convalescence, and they have the excitement 
of a forthcoming trip to " Blighty " to cheer 
them. 

On the nursing side one has the pleasure 
and satisfaction of quick results and rapid 
progress. A jaw case, say, comes in with 
some of the flesh shot away by high explosive, 
the surrounding skin spotted with small 
black patches, clotted and caked with blood, 
dust and clay in the moustache. 

39 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

One syringes and washes the wound with 
peroxide followed by a lotion, shaves the 
face where necessary, washes the skin with 
hydrogen peroxide, or ether soap and warm 
water, continues to syringe the wound fre- 
quently and dress it with eusol, until, at the 
end of a few days, three or four, perhaps, 
for jaw cases are notoriously quick in healing 
owing to the good circulation of blood in the 
face, the patient is ready for evacuation to 
England. 

It has been a pleasure and delight to have 
the wound progress so quickly, and the work 
has been thoroughly enjoyable, but now 
comes the little disappointment of active- 
service nursing. One does not see the com- 
pletion of the case, the subsequent grafting 
and building which ultimately makes so 
wonderful a cure for the poor boy. 

Active-service nursing is distinctly che- 
quered, here to-day and there to-morrow, 
wherever the work is heaviest, and with 
unexpected happenings occurring with non- 
plussing frequency. The time-table person 
who doesn't like to be disturbed from the 
even tenor of her ways would find little joy 
40 



CAMP NURSING 

in it. By which I have no intention of 
conveying the suggestion that routine and 
methodical work are at a discount. They 
were never more essential. In addition, 
extra demands are made on one's resource, 
one's adaptability, one's originality, one's 
power of organisation, one's ability to cope 
with a great, and often unexpected, influx of 
work, and one's faculty for seizing on the 
essential and omitting the trivial, quite 
probably a matter of vital importance. 



41 



CHAPTER V 
" CONVOY IN" 

IT is nine o'clock in the morning, the ward 
work is completed and the dressings about 
to begin. In each dual marquee the floors 
and lockers have been scrubbed with cresolis 
and water, the beds have been made, the 
linen chest, food cupboard and dressing-box 
courtesy titles, by the way, they are only 
packing cases, which stand in the tunnel 
between the marquees have been cleaned and 
put in order, the table scrubbed and set out 
with lotions, drums and dressing materials, 
and one puts on one's gown preparatory to 
taking down the dressings the while looking 
forward to a good, uninterrupted morning's 
work. 

" Lints, splints, bandages and cod-liver oil. 
Fall in A, fall in B, 
Fall in all the company. 

42 



" CONVOY IN f: 

Fall in at the double. 
Fall in at the double." 

So sounds the bugle and the stretcher- 
bearers hurry off. The interruption has 
already come. A convoy is in. 

In the course of a few minutes the tent- 
door parts and our cases arrive, usually as 
many as we have empty beds. The walking 
cases are in khaki, clay covered, mud- 
stained, blood-stained, clothing ripped, head 
perhaps bandaged, arm in a sling or hand 
bandaged, face boasting pads of gauze and 
adhesive plaster or, perhaps, foot in huge 
" trench slippers," in which latter case the 
patient is probably carried in pick-a-back. 

Each patient has his temperature taken 
and is, if necessary, fed. The walking cases 
are given a seat by the stove pending an 
inquiry into the nature of their injuries, and 
one goes to see the stretcher cases installed 
ready to have their blanket bath. The older 
patients meantime look on very interestedly, 
adding jest and jibe to the welcome extended. 

" Now, laddie, what is the matter ? " 

" Oh, they caught me in the back, sister." 

43 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

" Serve him right for running away, 
doesn't it, sister ? " says the stretcher-bearer, 
as he very gently helps him on to the bed. 
A smile from the damaged gladiator shows 
that he takes the " chipping " in the right 
spirit. 

" And you, old chappie ? ' : 

" Not too bad," is the revealing reply. 

" Ah ! You're an Australian." 

" Sure, sister," giving me answering smile. 
" Dinkum." 

A case with a leg in box-splints waits a 
minute until we push under the biscuits (a 
mattress is in three pieces each known as a 
" biscuit ") a fracture board. 

" Somebody been pulling yer leg, mate ? '" 
asks his neighbour. 

" No, just got my pad on. I'm batting 
next innings." 

" What's the damage here ? " one asks 
while glancing at the field card of a boy who, 
it seems, has inflammation of the cellular 
tissue of the feet, briefly indicated as 
" I.C.T.," and as one passes on, one over- 
hears his little joke related to his neighbours. 
" The M.O. at the field dressing station 
44 



" CONVOY IN ' 

looked at my feet, prodded them, pinched 
them, poked his fingers at them, and didn't 
know what to say so finally he wrote down 
I.C.T. I can't tell." 

Meantime the newest arrival is claiming 
attention a young boy with bad trench 
feet, purple, red, swollen, and with big black 
blisters from which later we get a great 
amount of fluid. As he is being very care- 
fully transferred from stretcher to bed, one 
talks in the manner made familiar by a 
dentist, and with the objective of distracting 
the patient's attention a little from the 
matter in hand. 

" I think you're the baby of this ward, 
sonny." The stretcher is raised on the level 
of the bed. " How old are you ? Sixteen ? " 

" No, sister, nineteen." I take each foot 
while an orderly lifts him bodily. 

" Nineteen ! Oh, surely not so old. Six- 
teen, and you're a drummer boy," slipping a 
cushion under his calves and arranging a 
" cradle." 

"No, sister." 

" What ! Are you really a soldier with a 
rifle to fight with ! " I am tucking in the 

47 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

bedclothes. He gives a sly little smile and a 
drop to his voice. 

" No, sister. The Army doesn't give yer 
a rifle ter fight with. It gives yer a rifle ter 
clean." 

I dutifully laugh and go to another tent 
in the line, a "line" consists of four, six, 
eight or nine marquees according to the 
division, surgical or medical, and according 
to the cases, heavy or light. 

In this tent the newcomers have already 
been put to bed, and look up expectantly to 
see what kind of reception is accorded them. 
Occasionally boys have subsequently con- 
fessed to me they didn't like at all the 
thought of coming to hospital. They " had 
an idea the sisters were strict," a politely 
vague term which presumably covered all 
the supposed feminine shortcomings which 
ever existed. 

6 ' Good-morning, boys two, three five, 
six new guests at our hotel." 

" Yes, sister," says the orderly. " And we 
charge seven and sixpence a day for bed and 
breakfast, don't we ? " 

" Certainly, and other meals at a la carte 
48 



" CONVOY IN ' 

prices. Nursing and medical attendance a 
guinea a day. Hope no one has lost his 
pay-book." 

A general smile at the little nonsense, and 
every Tommy Atkins of them is at ease. 

The walking cases usually go to the 
steam-bath and how they do enjoy the visit, 
especially when it happens to be weeks since 
they had their last bath ! The bed-patients 
are blanket-bathed. Meantime khaki and 
trench clothing have been hurried out of the 
ward with all dispatch, since the fight against 
vermin is most strenuous, most vigilant, 
and ever unceasing. 

The dressings taken down, the wounds 
are seen by the medical officer and the 
dressings done. A meal follows, a cigarette, 
and then the boys go to sleep. And how they 
do sleep deep, heavy, stupefying sleep it is ! 
Poor, weary, buffeted humanity ! Thank 
Heaven for an infinitely precious boon. 

Only one wakeful boy among the new- 
comers, and he assures me he doesn't feel 
like sleep, the bed is too soft. Oh yes, he is 
quite comfy ; it is cushy, ires bon, he is 
affirming, cinq bon. I overhear the latter, 

D 49 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

a new piece of slang to me, and immediately 
my footsteps are stayed. 
" And why cinq bon ? 3! 
" Five bon, sister." 
" Yes, but why five ? " 
" Oh, five bon, sister, a nap hand." 
I have spoken of the occasional aversion 
which some of the boys confess to have 
wholly needlessly harboured against hos- 
pital life. Another feeling, natural enough, 
I suppose, but equally needless and un- 
grounded is that of fear. Many of our 
patients are sturdy young Britons who have 
never had any ache or pain more dangerous 
or severe than toothache in all their healthy 
young lives, and to them " hospital " is a word 
which expresses a world of woe, which ought 
really to be writ all in capitals. They 
imagine surgeons with large, long knives 
and hawk-like eyes ruthlessly walking up 
and down ready to " chop." They imagine 
severe sisters, fully armed with terribly 
efficient forceps, ready to pull determinedly 
at all caked dressings and bandages. They 
have in their youth heard eloquent parents 
give exceedingly intimate, and exceedingly 
50 



" CONVOY IN ' 

inaccurate, accounts of the troubles that 
befell them in such and such hospital " when 
I had a crool time of it, me dear," and when 
" I lay on me back five months on end." 
They have, too, at more recent date reveren- 
tially listened to the accounts of healed 
warriors, personal and embellished accounts 
of hideous sufferings, accounts picturesquely 
told in billets at night when conversation 
otherwise might have languished. 

No wonder a little fear of hospitals is en- 
gendered within them. 

It is our privilege, pleasure and pride to 
dispel that fear, a pride which actually 
grows to a conceit. It is very feminine to 
enjoy rising above expectations, and to hear 
stumbling expressions of gratitude after a 
dressing, to be assured that " it feels luvly " 
or " I was dreading that, sister, and it didn't 
hurt a bit " is as the sound of music in one's 
ears. It is a form of vanity of which we are 
not ashamed, indeed, we revel in it. We 
try as hard to gain such compliments as any 
actress ever works to " get over " the foot- 
lights, as hard as any passe professional 
beauty fishes for her toasts of yesteryear. 

51 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

We treasure those whispered thanks more 
dearly than ever we treasured whispered 
conservatory compliments, for we know the 
one is sincere, whereas. . . . 

Most nervous patients are reassured by 
" chipping," for " chipping " is the language 
they best understand. It is so much more 
human and cheery than the " ministering 
angel stunt." 

" Now, little chappie, swinging the lead, 
eh ? We'll soon fix this up. Nothing very 
much the matter, is there ? " and with a 
soak of hydrogen peroxide and warm sterile 
water, caked dressings soon give way. The 
clay-covered, blood-spattered surrounding 
skin is washed with the same lotion or with 
ether soap and, possibly, an area shaved 
as in the case of head and calf wounds 
and the wound itself is cleaned and 
dressed. 

" Is the plugging out, sister ? " a boy will 
sometimes ask, when one takes up the 
bandage to bind up the wound and then, 
of course, one does feel conceited ! 

" Is it a Blighty one, sister ? " we are 
invariably asked, perhaps by the owner 
52 



" CONVOY IN ' 

of a gaping gash three or four inches 
long. 

" That scratch a Blighty one ! Good 
gracious, boy, you'll be marked ' Active ' 
very soon. Still, of course," altering the 
tone of voice, " in three or four days' time 
the medical officer is sure to have too many 
Blighty tickets to carry round, and we might 
persuade him to get rid of two when he 
reaches your cot." 

Such a beatific smile dawns that there is 
nothing to be seen above the bed-clothes 
but two crescents of inflated cheek and a 
wide, red mouth. And he is left to his 
beatitude. 

Unfortunately, there are times when our 
little nonsense talk of welcome is stilled, 
when we hurry round or send an orderly 
to see that each case is comfortable, while 
we give our whole attention to one in par- 
ticular. For he has come in with the 
ominous, red-bordered field-card and the 
syllable " Sev. " following the diagnosis, 
e.g. " G.S.W. rt. humerus sev. cpd. frac. rt. 
femur," indicating a gunshot wound of a 
severe character and a compound fracture. 

53 



A V.A.D. IX FRANCE 

Possibly the journey to hospital has aggra- 
vated the poor boy's injuries, the jolting of 
car or carriage may have brought on a 
haemorrhage or has exhausted strength al- 
ready much enfeebled. 

More blankets and hot water bottles, the 
saline bag and the hypodermic needle play 
their part or, perhaps, after the consultation 
comes an immediate visit to the theatre, or 
perhaps. ... " All you can do, sister, is 
to make him comfortable. A third of a 
grain of morphia. . . .* ? 

Then follow some of the bitterest moments 
one is called upon to endure, to feel an in- 
tensity of helpless pity, to chafe against a 
surging feeling of impotence, to watch, to 
wait and yet to do nothing, nothing of any 
telling value. One welcomes any little need 
of the patient's. One poor boy one night 
whispered, " I don't know what I want. I 
seem to be slipping away," and at his request 
there were changed and changed again the 
pillows, the cushions, the position of the 
limb, the cradle, the bedclothes, his lips were 
moistened, his face wiped and then he spoke 
again. 
54 



" CONVOY IN ' 

" I know now why you nurses are called 
4 sisters.' You are sisters to us boys." With 
a lump in the throat, and stinging tears at 
the back of the eyes one could only silently 
hope to be ever worthy of the name. 



55 



CHAPTER VI 
ACTIVE SERVICE IN THE SNOW 

SNOW has fallen persistently for a fortnight. 
Its coming was presaged by leaden skies and 
dull grey shadow clouds, which delighted 
the Australian and New Zealand nurses who 
were unaccustomed to half-lights, and some 
of whom had never seen snow. Then one 
morning we awoke to find the camp mantled 
in whiteness, the tents roofed and the tent 
ropes powdered with fairy-poised flakes, 
while a flaming, early sun shot red shafts of 
light through a silhouetted fringe of tall 
poplars, whose high branches dangled clumps 
of mistletoe like so many deserted rooks' 
nests. 

The New Zealanders especially were 
charmed, but, nous autres, we all shivered 
into our warmest woollies, packed them tight 
on us like the leaves of a head of lettuce. 
56 



ACTIVE SERVICE IN THE SNOW 

" Positively I shall have to peel myself to- 
night," vowed one girl. And, indeed, it 
takes a good many woollen garments to 
replace the furs and fur coats to which we 
have accustomed ourselves within the past 
few years. Finally, one gets into one's 
clothes, laces up one's service boots how 
long they are ! with clumsy chilblained 
fingers, or thrusts and stamps one's feet 
into gumboots, having first donned two 
pairs of stockings, one pair of woolly " slip- 
ons," or a pair of fleecy soles, and probably 
padded cotton, or cyanide, wool round the 
toes. Then with a jersey, a mackintosh, and 
a sou'wester over one's uniform, out into the 
snow to the messroom, with no path yet made. 
It is one of the few times one pauses to 
remember that one is "on active service." 
Of course, almost every one has a cold, 
almost every one has a cough, and every one 
has chilblains. Some unfortunate creatures 
have all three. Our chilblains, true to their 
inconvenient and inconsiderate kind, have 
cracked, and the disinfectants among which 
we dabble in the wards, while keeping them 
aseptic, give them never a chance to heal. 

57 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

So each day, like Henry V's veterans, we 
count our wounds and scars and say well, 
we say many things. 

Cures ? We dutifully rub on, and in, 
liniments while lacking faith in their efficacy. 
One brave soul the other night, driven to 
drastic measure by continuous irritation, 
walked boldly out into the snow in her bare 
feet. Some critics deplored her foolhardiness, 
some deplored her grandmotherly superstition 
and quackery, while we others stood round 
the door and applauded the courage of her 
action, though shivering at the sight of its stoic 
execution. Unfortunately for the complete 
success of the cure, she trod on a sharp stone. 

In the wards the patients are mildly 
excited over the snow, as being a new diver- 
sion. " Sister, may I take you tobogganing 
this afternoon ? " asks one boy with a 
bandaged head and a broken femur, but 
otherwise very cheerful. " Thanks so much. 
I should love it, and Jock will take me ski-ing 
won't you ? " I retort, whereat Jock laughs, 
for he is but very slowly " coming round " 
again after " making a meal of a few bits of 
shrapnel," as he terms his poor abdominal 
58 



ACTIVE SERVICE IN THE SNOW 

injuries. " And you others well, I think 
we might manage a bob-sleigh party, eh ? ' : 
" Oh, rather, sister ! " says a boy, peering 
over the top of his bed-cradle, which, by the 
way, he will need for many long weeks. 

Round the tent door stand the up-patients, 
eager to seize any chance surreptitiously to 
snowball orderlies and the French newspaper 
boy, and then to take mean advantage by an 
instantaneous retreat into the " dug-out." 
We hurry on with the morning work and its 
attendant duties and dressings, and as the 
afternoon and evening come, so, too, does 
the snow, faster than it can be raked from 
the tent roof and path. The stoves are 
filled with coal and coke, the tents are laced 
closely, blankets are hung purdah-wise over 
the lacings, the gramophone is kept busy, 
cards, draughts, and puzzles are brought out, 
and everything is " tres bon, sister," as the 
boys say, " quite merry and bright." Only 
occasionally the minor tone is introduced : 
" There's a few boys in the trenches would 
like to be here to-night.' 

The snow has ceased to fall when we leave 
at eight o'clock to go to the quarters, and 

59 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

the whiteness of the snow gives considerable 
light. We meet the night nurses coming on 
duty dressed cap-a-pie in wool and mackin- 
tosh, and looking like so many Lucy Grays 
coming with their lanterns through the snow. 
Lacking the decorum of Lucy, they shy some 
painfully well-placed snowballs at us, so we 
dip for a handful of snow. " Oh ! hit me, 
but don't hit my c hurricane ' ! " sounds like 
a mean advantage, so we, stony-heartedly, 
cry, " Put your ' hurricane ' at the leeward 
side of you Fore ! ?? At other times it has 
been blowing a blizzard when we have ex- 
changed duties, and then all we call is a 
" Good-night," with occasionally the soldier 
cry, " Sorry you joined, draftie ? 5? 

Going to bed is a prodigious rite and cere- 
mony. After a bath in a camp bath, which 
against the feeble force of chilblained fingers 
has a maximum resistance, immovability 
and inertia, and yet seems to possess a centre 
of gravity more elusive than mercury, one 
dons pyjamas, cholera belt, pneumonia 
jacket, bed socks, and bed stockings as long 
and woolly as a Father Christmas's, and then 
piles on the bed travelling rug, dressing gown, 
60 



ACTIVE SERVICE IN THE SNOW 

and fur coat. Even in bed the trials of 
active service do not end on occasion. We 
found one girl lying in bed the other night 
with her umbrella up. The snow had melted 
and was trickling through the tent, and she 
was too tired to trouble about having matters 
righted, " I'm imagining it is a garden para- 
sol, and I'm in a hammock, and it's June." 
Gorgeous imagination ! 

But this morning the rain has come, and 
we are as glad as the Ancient Mariner to see 
that rain, for to us it means the passing of the 
snow. Our camp has looked charmingly 
picturesque with the surrounding hills reced- 
ing to a dim blue haze, a Futurist sun arro- 
gant at dawn and sunset, and honey-gold at 
noon, sentinel trees, tall and gaunt, long, 
straight roads peopled occasionally by dark 
lines of passing soldiers, their marching 
muffled by the snow, their singing dying 
away as they quickly reach that distance 
where they look so much like toy sbldiers. 
Poor boys ! For their sakes more than our 
own we are glad to welcome the rain. Pic- 
turesque the snow may be, but the practical 
side of it is cruel. 

61 



CHAPTER VII 
FROM MY DIARY 

A GLORIOUS autumn afternoon. Went for a 
walk through the forest and met a big draft 
on its way up the line. A magnificent body 
of men, clear-eyed, bronze-faced, swinging 
tread. Their style of marching gave a good 
indication of their excellent fitness, for they 
simply swept along even although they were 
all wearing " tin-hats " and were weighed 
with the full " humpy." Worming her way 
in and out between the troops was an old 
crone selling apples. 

What a pity we nurses have no kind of 
salute ! I should dearly love to show the 
" boys going-up " some little respect, just 
as I always want to pay tribute when I pass a 
soldier's funeral. Walking on I stopped at a 
tree and began to pick ivy for the wards from 
its trunk. Another draft went past and one 
62 



FROM MY DIARY 

rogue began to sing, and soon every one else 
joined in : 

" Just like the ivy, Til be constant and true, 
Just like the ivy, I'll cling to you" 

* * * # 

I am becoming a complete nurse. I dab 
on the backs of my heels when I walk. I 
swish my skirts. I can lend an air of fes- 
tivity to a ward with a clean towel, two red 
ties and a few green leaves. I know there 
are as many clean ends to a sheet as Euclid 
had sides to a square. I make beds with all 
the overturned sheets dressing from the left 
(or right), and with corners as exact as though 
a protractor had been at work, and as smooth 
as though a spirit level had been requisitioned. 
It seems a pity to lose the art, so I incline to 
being a chambermaid after the war. Or 
perhaps a post of bedder at Cambridge might 
prove more lucrative. A bedder is a woman 
with a black bonnet, no conscience, and an 
acquisitive instinct. I must secure the one, 
get rid of the other, and develop the third. 

* * * * 

I have just had a most enjoyable meal. 

63 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

That sounds a very greedy remark, but when 
I add that the meal was breakfast in bed, 
on active service, it will be interpreted as the 
acme of luxury, self-gratification and self- 
indulgence. Breakfast in bed, is, of course, 
only possible when one is ill and I am 
brutally healthy or when one has a " day 
off," and the latter is of a Spartan infre- 
quency ; my last was nine weeks ago. 

The home-sisters are supposed to bring the 
breakfast to us, but they are always so busy 
that a kindly-disposed friend saves them the 
trouble by bringing it along on her way to 
the wards. W and B brought mine 
this morning, each wearing that smile of 
reflected glee, indeed, I might describe it as 
a grin, which is ordinarily dispensed to the 
lucky possessor of a " day off." 

" What a gorgeous breakfast," I cooed. 
" I only need the morning papers and my 
letters, for it to be absolutely a breakfast 
de luxe." The gorgeous breakfast ? Well, 
it was on a japanned tray, which has seen 
very active service, and lost much of its 
veneer in the battles. It was guiltless of a 
traycloth and, of course, there was no 
64 




A SUNNY DAY 



FROM MY DIARY 

serviette. However, a uniform cap soon 
supplies that deficiency. 

The teapot lid had its knob knocked off 
these many days ago. Pas de quoi. The 
tea was piping hot and delicious. The mar- 
malade was enthroned in an egg-cup, Army 
pattern, blue enamel, bringing to one's mind 
somehow the tea-shop term " one portion." 
The sugar-basin was an emptied potted-meat 
jar. " Dis-used " jar I had nearly written, 
but it is anything but that, its uses are 
legion. The milk jug's origin was ditto. 
The plates were as far beyond reproach as 
Caesar's much-vaunted wife, and were filled 
with a rasher of admirably cooked ration 
bacon, and crisp toast made from the ex- 
cellent Army bread. A pat of delicious 
butter from a neighbouring French farm 
completed the total. Truly a gorgeous 
breakfast ! I felt a sybarite. 

A girl comes to an adjacent bunk. 
" U-u-u-gh ! Where are my gum boots and 
sou'wester ? It is snowing again. I knew 
it was going to do something offensive by the 
colour of the sky. Of course, I'm on the 

offensive about the occurrence, but " 

67 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

" Napoo, napoo," shout several voices. I 

chuckle, then snuggle down. 

* * * * 

Took a dozen of the boys to church this 
morning, a beautiful little service. The 
church is a marquee and the bell is rung by 
striking a suspended, empty shell-case with 
a piece of old iron. The tent floor has been 
stained brown with solignum, and we have 
a few forms to sit on. Our chancel is marked 
off by two primitive rails and backed by 
four brown screens, the reredos being of 
cream cloth stretched tightly, the top fringed 
with a little gold fringe. The service is 
beautifully simple, the hymns those well- 
known ones we have all sung since we were 
children, the " sermon " a few minutes' 
topical address on, say, " The Trenches of 
Life," " The S.O.S. Call," " The Making of 
an Attack." Then " Let us pray for victory, 
for those at home whom our absence has made 
desolate, for the navy and those in responsi- 
bility, for the sick and especially those in our 
hospital, for the triumph of the right, for the 
coming of peace." We all stand up at 
attention after the final hymn and sing the 
68 



FROM MY DIARY 

National Anthem, our feminine voices quite 
drowned by the men's, and then, with the 
boy-blues, we all troop out into the soft, 
spring sunshine. 

Across the road is a large hall, one given 
by the Boy Scouts of Britain, and to it come 
any troops resting in the neighbourhood, 
for a day or two, on their way up the line. 
When the hall is packed with a khaki con- 
gregation of a thousand or more, it is a 
wonderfully impressive sight, especially when 
the heads are reverently bowed in prayer. 

In the evening our boys may go to an 
adjacent Y.M.C.A. hut, where a lantern ser- 
vice is held. I went last Sunday evening. 
The hymn " For those in peril on the sea " 
was thrown on the screen. At the piano was 
a patient with a crutch at either side of him, 
poor boy. He played and we all sang 
lustily. Then came a prayer for help in our 
work and our life, and courage to meet death 
in its season. We had the hymn " Jesu, 
lover of my soul " ; some scenes, accom- 
panied by verbal comments, of life in the 
Holy Land, and lastly, the hymn " Oh God 
our help in ages past." It gave one an over- 

69 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

powering feeling of sadness to stand there 
in the darkness, singing : 

" Time, like an ever -rolling stream, 

Bears all its sons away ; 
They fly forgotten, as a dream 
Dies at the opening day" 

Our generation ended, these brave boys 
individually will be forgotten, but their deeds, 
dream-like in their amazing valour, have 
opened up a new day of freedom and inde- 
pendence which can never be forgotten. 
What a gift to posterity ! 

* * * * 

We had a mail in to-night, the first for 
five days. One girl on her way to dinner 
called at the office on some errand, dis- 
covered the letters sorted, and took upon 
herself the glad task of playing postman. 
Accordingly, she appeared in the mess carry- 
ing a great bundle of correspondence in her 
apron. 

Dinner was almost ended, and there was 
a general stampede towards a deserted table. 
We would have made a good picture for an 
illustrated paper as we all crowded round, 
70 



FROM MY DIARY 

a huddled mass of gray, white and red, 
heads and caps bobbing, aprons fluttering, 
hands greedily outstretched, the impatient 
mounted on chairs, the artful below burrow- 
ing their way determinedly to the front like 
so many sappers, the decorous, or perhaps 
the merely inept, contenting themselves 
with the outer fringe. 

A delayed mail is nearly as exciting as a 
Christmas mail. We are all greedy and 
insatiable, no matter how many letters we 
get. Newspapers we neglect and ignore, 
ingrates that we are, even going so far as to 
say " Only newspapers, how disappointing ! '' 
though knowing well we will resort to them 
for home gossip with gusto on the morrow. 

" I don't like embarras des richesses even 
in the matter of a mail," says a cautious 
Scotch soul next door. " I like to spread 
out my joys as I do my possessions, and make 
them go far." 

But, seated among the debris of five 
letters and two parcels, I, like a bacchante, 
laugh her to scorn. I love my joy in ex- 
travagant draughts. 



71 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

Since the " Sister Dora " cap is taboo, and 
we have the handkerchief cap with which 
to tie up our head, one V.A.D. has cut her 
hair short in the fashion of the bob-crop of 
American children. She quite rightly argues 
long hair to be an unnecessary waste of time 
and energy, unnecessary since her head must 
never now be uncovered except in her own 
bunk. One called her a wise Virgin, but we 
others contented ourselves by dubbing her a 
strong-minded female, the while conserva- 
tively and foolishly retaining our own ques- 
tionable crowning-glories. 

* * * * 

Goaded to action by absent friends, two 
of us V.A.D.s went to be photographed 
this afternoon. We mounted interminable 
stairs eventually to find the occupants of the 
studio eating rissoles round a gas stove. We 
selected our scenery with the idea of eliminat- 
ing the florid, while the operator selected 
our attitude and posture with the idea of 
including the picturesque, clamped irons 
behind us and stood critically before us. 
" Si triste, trop triste," we were abjured. 
" Pas belle, pas belle," we were assured 
72 



FROM MY DIARY 

a truly nasty blow. " Un petit plus gai. 
L'air joyeux," we were invited. " Comme 
9a, comme a," we were exhorted as he licked 
his lips north, south, east and west. We 
obeyed in a comparative degree while he 
twisted our heads to a revue-girl, picture- 
postcard allure. This w r e disobeyed in very 
positive degree, remembering Devonshire 
House, and finally giving us up as a bad 
bargain he shrugged his shoulders until they 
were almost on a level with his parietal bones, 
hopelessly squeezed the bulb, and extrava- 
gantly bowed us out past his cardboard 
Watteau terraces, and his papier-mache 
eighteenth century pedestals in superlative 
disgust. We left in subdued mood, con- 
scious of our shortcomings in the matter of 
English stiffness. 



A drizzling November afternoon so B 
and I borrowed an umbrella before going 
for a walk in the forest. The owner of the 
umbrella having recognised that our nursing 
staff, like the Apostles, have most things in 
common had taken the very necessary pre- 
73 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

caution to fasten on the handle a luggage 
label bearing her name ! 

Up a very steep and rugged pathway an 
old, old crone was tugging a handcart piled 
high with faggots. So B and I pushed 
behind. Turning her head at the unexpected 
lightening of the load, for she evidently 
thought some of the faggots had fallen, or 
the cart like the chords of Tara's harp had 
come asunder, she showed us a face so 
ludicrous in its dismay and amazement as to 
make a delightful study. Our lack of con- 
ventional decorum astounds and mystifies 
the French. 

Like silly children we walked on and on 
not thinking of our return journey so were 
very glad to accept the lift afforded us by 
some English Tommies on a steam-roller. 
Even more astounded looks from the French 

passers-by ! 

* * * 

A dreadful day. The morning bitterly 
cold, and the fires refusing to light. The 
boys put on paraffin and soon the marquees 
were full of fumes. Then the wood smoked 
until it seemed as though we would all be 
74 



FROM MY DIARY 

kippered. Five convoy patients warned for 
England. They and their wounds to be 
dressed in forty-five minutes. A convoy in. 
Several patients to X-ray and some for 
operation ; two of latter rather bad and very 
busily sick. No off-duty, but took quarter of 
an hour to go to the dentist to have a tooth 
stopped. A hectic evening, dressings, beds, 
diet-sheets, blighty tickets, temperatures, 
etc., etc. Frost very severe and only half 
a pailful of water obtainable. Caught my 
finger on a bed-rail, overturned and broke 
the nail. Very tired and cold. No fires in 
the mess, and only half a jugful of water for 
washing and hot bottle. The wick of my 
oil stove dropped into the well. My chil- 
blains particularly energetic. I had indiges- 
tion and no aqua menth pip and a tactless 
neighbour persisted in singing " When you 
come to the end of a perfect day." 



The country now is lovely, great hanging 
sheafs of wistaria, laburnum and lilac, the 
chestnut spires reared in pink and white 
profusion, and in the meadows round the 

75 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

camp hosts of buttercups, white marguerites, 
and great yellow daisies. 

On the latter I seized with rapture, and 
then discovered they were plutocratic rela- 
tions of our John-go-to-bed-at-noon suffer- 
ing, too, from the very common ailment, 
swelled head. Only here the ailment justified 
itself most picturesquely. We have hare- 
bells and lovely, blue cornflowers growing 
wild, and a most delightful, carmine-coloured 
clover with a conical head which bursts 
usually into flamingo-pink. The up-patients 
go out and bring us back armfuls of flowers 
with which we deck the tents. Lately we 
have been going to the forest for lilies-of-the- 
valley, but they are " over " now, so we have 
to content ourselves with Geoffrey Plan- 
tagenet's flower, the yellow broom. We get 
great branches of that, and in our particular 
wards it appears to best advantage, in a 
" vase " which is made out of the case of 
a British 18-pounder picked up by one of 
our R.A.M.C. men after Mons. 

Camp life in these glorious spring days 
teems with interest and swarms with ants. 
Ants ! we have hundreds of thousands of 
76 



FROM MY DIARY 

them. " Maiden aunts, they must be," says a 
Scotch patient, " for they are so fussy and 
such busy bodies." They invade the an- 
nexes, which we use as food cupboards, and 
though we commend their energy and enter- 
prise, we condemn their violation of the 
treaties of cleanliness and possession. A 
tin of jam gets hastily put away over night, 
then next morning it is a seething black mass. 
A pot of sugar left for a few hours presents 
a heaving, black surface the next time one 
goes to it. 

Accordingly we stand all edibles in a tea- 
bowl, and surround them with a moat of 
water. The enamelled bread-pan we have 
on wooden supports which have been soaked 
in paraffin. 

The patients are often quite interested in 
the wee beasties. Some of them tell us 
fearsome yarns of the depredations of the 
white ants in colonies where they have seen 
service. They call us to watch any particu- 
lar little cutenesses our own ants display, 
give adequate admiration to the engineering 
feats the tiny things occasionally perform, 
and only once soundly rated their lack of 

77 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

intelligence, and that was when I found a 
company in the medicine cupboard. Even 
then, however, some one vindicated them. 
" P'raps they're fed up with the war, sister, 
and want to go west." 

" May bugs " we have too. One dropped 
on my bed last night. It was " Van-in " 
for he fell on his shiny, russet-red back. He 
was about two inches long, and I removed 
him on a newspaper to the front line of 
trenches as materialised by a ditch in the 
the hedge. Big, fat moths fly in at night 
and after bobbing round inconsequently for a 
time invariably flap on one's face. 

Bloated, Germanic-looking spiders come 
up miraculously through the boards in the 
tent floor, ditto hairy worms with sloshy 
bodies and busy little iridescent beetles that 
seem to have much to do, and very little 
time to do it in. Crickets sit outside our 
bell-tents and scream piercingly, and in the 
wet weather there come in snails and rain. 
To snails we are inured, but before the in- 
vasion of the rain we beat a retreat. How- 
ever, it isn't possible to manoeuvre much a 
six-foot camp bed in a small bell-tent, and 
78 



FROM MY DIARY 

after the drippings of rain have successfully 
followed the bed in its circuitous movings, 
there is nothing for the tent's inmate to do 
but hoist an umbrella, and report the matter 
in the morning. 

But camp-life in fine weather is glorious- 
glorious are the nights when the nightingale 
sings in the forest which borders our camp. 
Glorious are the times when we lie abed 
looking out on a moon-bathed sky with 
scurrying mysterious clouds, nights when we 
tell ourselves that there is no war. Glorious 
it is to sit and watch a rose sunset fade to 
mauve twilight, with a honey-coloured moon, 
long drawn-out nights when one's life has 
time to pause, and one takes a moment to 
think. Then one loses the charm, turns 
sideways in the deck-chair, swallowing the 
lump in one's throat, a lump partly occa- 
sioned by the beauty of the evening, partly 
by one's sheer physical tiredness, and partly 
by the memory of a torn and gaping wound 
and of a magnificent young life dying behind 
a red screen in the ward yonder, quickly as 
the sunset. 



79 



CHAPTER VIII 
A B.E.F. CHRISTMAS 

CHRISTMAS with us began a week or ten days 
before December 25. We weren't afraid of 
its being long-drawn-out or of palling on 
the boys, for our hospital is usually just 
like a glorified casualty clearing-station. Our 
patients move so quickly. Besides, none of 
us O.A.S. people are of the blase or bored 
type. 

Festivities began by some Y.M.C.A. ladies 
bringing round presents for the patients. 
These presents were of two well-chosen 
varieties useful, and capable of noise and 
the men had their choice. The useful kind 
were notebooks and pencils, and both were 
soon busily used media for Christmas wishes 
to Blighty. The others were little sheep, 
ducks, lambs, etc., which could be made to 
emit noises travestying a baa, quack, etc. 
80 



A B.E.F. CHRISTMAS 

The boys were rather shy, as usual with 
strange ladies, so I picked up a sheep, made 
it bleat, declared it awfully fascinating, and 
generally set the ball going. One of the 
ladies asked me to accept it as a mascot, and 
the boys' tongues soon loosened when one 
of them said it was " scarcely the thing for 
sister to be associated with a black sheep." 

The men were very funny about these 
animals. In one ward they tied Blighty 
tickets to their coats and filled in the tickets 
fully somewhat after this style : " C sitting. 
Able to walk on board. No. 19425618, Pte. 
Spud Tamson. Corps : First Field Canteen, 
Wet Division. Ship : Friendship. Diag- 
nosis : Homesickness Acute. Signed : H. 
Oppit, Major, R.A.M.C." 

Some " were willing to sprint on board," 
some " delighted to jump on board " ; one 
diagnosis was " swinging the lead," another 
" acute wangling," while a duck had an 
operation paper tied to it, "I certify that 
I am willing to undergo an operation for 
strangulation, and after the post-mortem to 
be stuffed." 

Round the hospital are forests from which 
F 81 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

we got lots of evergreens and mistletoe. Our 
Christmas trees we garnished with scraps of 
discarded cotton wool to represent snow, 
and decorated with crackers, etc. Wonderful 
results we got from an outlay of a solitary 
franc. Then the boys cut out mottoes from 
paper wrappings : " Christmas Greetings," 
" God bless the lads in the trenches," 
" Heaven bless our sisters," " A Happy 
New Year to all." The boys had their own 
way entirely with the decorations, and inci- 
dentally pulled one another's legs unmerci- 
fully, tied Christmassy ribbons and holly to 
the big, wooden, extension supports to which 
one boy's leg was attached, stuck little golly- 
wogs on top of the cages over injured limbs, 
tucked mistletoe in the chart-board of a boy 
with his head and face all bandaged like a 
mask, warning him " Now, be careful, sister 
may want a pair of gloves this Christmas, 
and you being such a good-looking chap, 
well, well, well. . . ." 

One night the hospital orderlies had, by 
way of relaxation, a fancy-dress ball. It 
was held in the Y.M.C.A. hut what should 
we out here do without these huts ? and 
82 



A B.E.F. CHRISTMAS 

lasted from seven o'clock till ten. We sisters 
went and looked on at the proceedings after 
dinner, got on the platform, judged the 
competition waltzing, and awarded the prize, 
fifty " luxury smokes," for the best costume. 

The whole business was great fun. The 
boys had determined to lend an air of reality 
to the ball, and almost half had dressed as 
girls or should I say as females ? so that 
when the couples danced together the sight 
wasn't very incongruous. What did look 
incongruous was to see every one smoking, 
the " flappers " and the " Duchess of Devon- 
shires," the " pierrettes " and the " Army 
sisters," not to mention the " matrons." 

Our theatre orderly came as a matron, 
his get-up being a great success cap well 
over the brow, with only two little wisps of 
fringe showing, trim little black suede shoes 
and smart stockings, and the usual regulation 
uniform. He acted the part, too ; came 
and sat with us on the platform, thereby 
deceiving many of the other orderlies, and 
was full of jibes. When one of us remarked 
that he had changed his dress very quickly, 
for he had been on duty until eight o'clock, 

83 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

he agreed, adding : " Much quicker than 
the ordinary matron. But then I'm no 
ordinary woman." The great lead-paper 
star he had on in the place of the usual 
medal (" The Star, don't you know, much 
more exclusive than the R.R.C.") came un- 
stuck, so he borr5wed a safety-pin from an 
adjacent V.A.D., saying : " Thanks, so much, 
I'll remember you in my next list." 

An Australian unit adjoins ours, so, of 
course, there were lots of " Bushmen." And 
gee ! how they could dance ! The two best 
dancers, to whom we unanimously gave the 
prize, were Australians. One " Tassie," 
gowned in a kimono lent by a kindly V.A.D., 
was a fruit-grower, or something of that 
sort, from Tasmania, evidently much of a 
dog in civil life, and also no mean cosmo- 
politan. Certainly he never learnt to boston 
as he did on a Tasmanian fruit farm. He 
and his partner bostoned and rag- waltzed 
until my very toes itched again. They had 
itched already many days before with chil- 
blains and trench-feet symptoms, but this 
was a pleasing, irritating, alluring, tantaliz- 
ing itch, that made me long to defy the in- 
84 



A B.E.F. CHRISTMAS 

violable Army rule that Sisters must not 
dance on active service. 

On Christmas Eve some of the sisters went 
carol-singing round the wards. I was coming 
late to the quarters, for I had been " special- 
ing " a case. It was a perfect night, very 
mild, raining moonlight, with the valleys 
great pools of sombre silence, and the air 
beautifully still, so still that one could hear 
when a car had its speed changed on a fairly 
distant hill. The carols sounded inexpres- 
sibly sweet, and one sensed, probably for 
the first time, the holy character of the 
Christmas festival. 

Arrived at the mess I found that some 
patients who, apparently, had nothing wrong 
with their lungs, were acting as waits and 
were singing to those sisters who were at 
dinner (the latter consisting of busy-time 
rations of bully beef, potatoes, macaroni 
cheese, and a cup of coffee). 

They made such a pretty Christmas-card 
sort of picture, the glass doors of the mess 
thrown open, the warm light streaming out 
and catching the dark outlines of sundry 
tall poplars, the boy-blues grouped round 

85 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

singing, one holding a lighted lantern, the 
square collapsible sort that has the old- 
world, " langthorne " look about it. 

Christmas Day we sisters again gave en- 
tirely to the boys. We bought them sausages 
for breakfast, and that, with the hospital's 
ration of bacon, " did them proud," so they 
said. They had some nice roast beef and 
the orthodox pudding for dinner, and then 
we sisters provided their tea. Our boys 
chose tinned salmon ! ! (no, thank heaven 
for our conscience's sake, we are not in 
medical wards), potted meat sandwiches, 
scones, rice cake, sultana cake, Christmas 
cake, assorted buns, jellies and fruits, while 
they received sundry gifts of sweets, choco- 
lates, and nuts through philanthropic chan- 
nels. This, with crackers and two-penny- 
worth of primrose crinkled paper and a 
franc's-worth of yellow daisies, made a great 
show. 

Supper was the same menu, for we had 
provided so as to " be on the safe side," but, 
horrors upon horrors ! what were our ago- 
nised feelings on walking into one marquee 
to find that the men there had saved their 
86 



A B.E.F. CHRISTMAS 

dinner bottle of stout until supper, and were 
consuming it to the foregoing culinary ac- 
companiment ! We thought of handing 
round immediately four grains of calomel or 
a " number nine " to every sturdy person 
present, and then, we considered, a benignant 
deity looks after people's tummies at Christ- 
mas time, so we stilled our many qualms, 
and next morning no one was a whit the 
worse. 

On Christmas Day the Australian unit 
near us presented some religious tableaux, 
a manger scene, the Three Shepherds, the 
arrival of the Wise Men, and so on. The 
tableaux were most beautifully staged, espe- 
cially considering we are on active service, 
but Australia in play is just as Australia 
is in work, very thorough, very effective, 
and, despite the almost always negative 
state of conditions, she always " gets 
there." 

Christmas-boxes ? Lots of the boys hung 
up their stockings, and we put in something 
for each patient in our ward, even if it were 
only a khaki handkerchief or a piece of fancy 
soap, with, of course, always a packet or 

87 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

tin of cigarettes. All our bunks for two or 
three days before Christmas were sights to 
behold, scarcely righting room for the in- 
habitant herself, what with bundles of mit- 
tens, notebooks, pencils, comforters, scarves, 
packets of sweets, smokes, etc. etc. Visitors 
got no farther than the door for the best of 
reasons. By the way, one patient hung up 
his well, as a matter of fact his pants, 
and wrote a letter to Santa Claus, asking 
for Blighty tickets as his Christmas-box, but 
next morning " Narpoo, no bon " the 
chimney wasn't wide enough and Santa 
Claus had presumably passed by. Later on, 
however, round came the major, felt the 
man's toes, asked him if his feet felt numb, 
etc. etc. Then " C sitting, sister, please " 
and the man had got his Christmas-box, 
and, what is more, was on his way Blighty- 
wards within two hours. 

We ourselves were not so fortunate with 
Christmas-boxes. For the sake of war eco- 
nomy a Christmas parcel from home was all 
we allowed ourselves, and great fun we had 
warming up large plum-puddings over small 
spirit-stoves, and Blighty mince-pies over 
88 



A B.E.F. CHRISTMAS 

biscuit-tin lids held over the aforesaid stoves. 
Primitive sort of rechauffe, but excellent 
good they all were, which is typical of the 
perverse, contrary way cooking has. 



89 



CHAPTER IX 

HOUSEKEEPING ON ACTIVE 
SERVICE 

THIS extraordinary war is in many ways sur- 
prisingly ordinary. Men who have dreamed 
of the panoply of mediaeval war, of the clash 
and clang of strife, of galloping chargers and 
uplifted steel find themselves standing in a 
sodden trench where, for days and days, 
they never have an opportunity of seeing a 
German. Or, worse still, they are miles 
behind the line installing telephones and 
electric lights. Women who have felt them- 
selves uplifted by the deeds of those pioneers 
in the Crimean War are called on to house- 
keep ! And yet, of course, electric lights are 
required, and nursing staffs must be fed, and 
the practice of putting each man and woman 
to their trade will in no way mar the efficiency 
of things. 
90 



HOUSEKEEPING ON SERVICE 

The nursing quarters of most of the camp 
hospitals in France consist of a wooden hut 
for the mess-and-sitting-room by the way, 
it is almost solely the one and very rarely 
the other, a shed of some kind for the cook's 
kitchen, and bell tents, marquees, Alwyn 
huts, Armstrong huts, and wooden huts for 
the housing of the staff. 

In the early days, some of our nursing 
sisters had improvised bedrooms from the 
loose boxes which were near us, in virtue of 
our being on a race-course. Later, when 
tents and huts materialised at a quicker 
rate, these were left for the accommodation 
of the batmen. Bell tents and marquees 
were always very popular, being absolutely 
delightful in summer and very cosy in winter 
with the aid of stoves. Some nurses who 
had thoroughly enjoyed life in a marquee 
during the winter of 1915-1916 were in a 
rebellious mood at having to go into a hut 
for some weeks during the winter of 1916- 
1917. 

It was wonderful how pretty and comfort- 
able bunks and bell tents could be made. 
All the furniture was of the packing-box 

91 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

variety ; indeed, once installed, and a few 
other bunks inspected, we all felt competent 
to give authoritative advice on how to 
furnish a bed-boudoir-morning-smoke-draw- 
ing-room on a franc and a half. Chest of 
" drawers," whose characteristic was that 
they did not draw, were built from small 
boxes on the cumulative principle and by 
the system of dovetailing. Then a chintz 
curtain was hung in front. Another chintz 
curtain served as a wardrobe. Indeed, chintz 
like charity covered a multitude of sins, the 
greatest of these being untidiness. 

Most ambitious dressing-tables and writ- 
ing-tables were evolved by standing a sugar- 
box on end, knocking out the lower side, 
and nailing on top at the back a small 
narrow box. These made a brave show 
stained with permanganate of potash, or, 
later, when this got rare, with solignum. A 
camp-bed, too, is easily convertible into a 
"Chesterfield," flanked at either end with 
one's pillows pushed into pretty cushion- 
covers. An admirable " Saxon stool," too, 
most of us possessed, fashioned from three 
sides of a box and stained. In post-war days 
92 




A 4 * BATHVRPATHF.R BUNK 



HOUSEKEEPING ON SERVICE 

house furnishers must look to their businesses, 
for the land will abound with men skilled in 
the art of dug-out furniture, and maidens 
nimble at throwing together O.A.S. furniture. 

Camp housekeeping was decidedly remi- 
niscent of a picnic. One had the same make- 
shifts, the same multum in parvo with respect 
to cutlery and dishes, both as regards cooking 
and serving, the same triumphant adaptation 
of commonplace articles to superior purposes, 
the same feeling of everything turning out 
well in the end. Then, too, one had an 
additional satisfaction, that of being on 
active service. 

Three of us all V.A.D.s ran the home 
and mess, which at the time consisted of 
between sixty and seventy nurses. We were 
helped by batmen, all P.B. men, who cleaned 
the huts and tents, swept and washed floors, 
attended to our supply of drinking, cooking 
and washing water, taps and sinks were 
unknown luxuries, mended fires, washed 
dishes, cleaned and cooked vegetables, cut 
up and cooked meats, and generally did the 
heavier work. 

We planned the menus, laid the tables, 

95 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

carved, served out the different meals, cooked 
certain dishes, did the shopping, dusted, had 
the management of the home quarters, e.g. 
preparing rooms for newcomers, tending in- 
disposed sisters, and were generally respon- 
sible for the hundred and one little trifles 
necessary to the smooth running of affairs. 

Man in pursuance of the domestic arts has 
often been suggested more or less facetiously 
as a solution of the domestic servant problem. 
The soldier man in this particular role proved 
himself a curious creature. Some of his 
virtues he owed to the fact of his being a 
soldier, and some of his idiosyncrasies to his 
sex. 

Thus his soldierly dispatch and obedience 
were most refreshing to any woman subjected 
to a succession of pert maids who say " Yes, 
miss," and then execute the order at their 
leisure. Positively at first it was disconcert- 
ing to have such instant obedience, to have 
the batman rise in the midst of washing the 
floor to go and perform some duty casually 
mentioned. The Army rule, " The last order 
obeyed first," however, soon sinks into one's 
mind. 
96 



HOUSEKEEPING ON SERVICE 

As workmen our batmen constituted the 
customary problem a man presents, they 
always made a big fuss about having the 
correct tools. Whereas a woman will drive 
in a nail with a boot, a hair-brush, or a flat- 
iron, a man must have his tool-bag by him 
ere he will undertake a little carpentry. 

Possessed of this, however, he will work 
the proverbial wonders. Our mess furniture 
was a triumph for our men. The sideboard 
began life as a huge packing-case for medical 
stores, so did our glass cupboard, our linen 
chest, our " wine-cellar," and our dwarf 
bookcase, all bravely stained brown and duly 
polished. Our best plant-stand did much 
praiseworthy duty, its packing-case pedestal 
draped in thin green bastiste, and the plant 
admirably enshrined in a marmite. 

Camp housekeeping in France quickly 
proved itself to be quite an arithmetical 
affair. Thus if one decided on making scones, 
immediately there was a little mental arith- 
metic to be done in ratios and substitutions, 
with the home quantity as a basis. For 
example, if half a pound of flour makes six- 
teen scones, how many are required for sixty 

G 97 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

people, with camp appetites, a quantity 
which must then be calculated in demi- 
kilos, those being the weights we had in the 
kitchen. Then the quantity of butter, sugar, 
cream of tartar, etc., must be calculated. 
Similar arithmetical tussles were necessary 
before making, say, a custard, and sending 
for the milk, which, by the way, the batman 
always spoke of as so many " leekers." 

Over our makeshifts we used to make 
merry or grow conceited. Biscuit tins were 
our great refuge for storage, for converting 
into buckets, and at times for cooking. 
Coffee tasted delicious from a biscuit tin, 
especially on a cold morning with several 
degrees of frost, and at an hour still un- 
usually early. 

P Bully beef made excellent curry, good 
shepherd's pie and most appetising rissoles, 
particularly when served with tomato sauce 
made active-service style from a tin of 
tomatoes, heated, sieved, and thickened with 
a little flour. 

Ration biscuits, otherwise irreverently 
known as dog biscuits, only required con- 
siderate treatment to be responsible for 
98 



HOUSEKEEPING ON SERVICE 

quite agreeable puddings and porridge 
reminiscent of the schoolroom " milk " pud- 
ding, it is true, but what would you ? We 
are on active service which is the English 
equivalent of C'est la guerre, both of which 
accompanied by a philosophical smile or a 
rueful shrug of the shoulders, as the case 
may be, are supposed to cover a multitude 
of deficiencies. 

Mice, quite an alarming bag of them, we 
used to catch with a basin, a thimble, and 
a piece of stick. Our vegetable sieve was 
a biscuit tin with holes jabbed in with a 
jack-knife. The sphere of usefulness of 
things was never confined, too. Our mimosa 
bloomed daintily as ever from a glass which 
originally held Florence Cream, while a 
charmingly bright touch was given by a 
polished, oblong cocoa-tin holding holly and 
red berries. 

One of the first essentials in camp house- 
keeping is to rid oneself of all one's tenderly 
cherished notions, and all one's dearly loved 
susceptibilities on the subject of housekeeping, 
so soon as one enters the mess room. We 
used to disobey every canon of housewifery 

99 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

ritual and emerge unscathed : boil water 
over a stick fire held together by three 
bricks, and yet not get the water smoked, 
have the dishes washed in hot water and 
soda, and yet the few gilt-edged specimens 
we possessed obstinately, serenely and suc- 
cessfully retained their gilt for several strenu- 
ous months. Our knives we plunged into a 
jug of hot, soapy water, and yet the handles 
remained staunchly attached to the blades. 
The dish washing used to be done at break- 
neck speed, and although we had upwards 
of a thousand dishes washed per day, we 
had no casualties for a fortnight once, at 
any rate so our soldier men set a very 
good example to the average scullery maid. 
Indeed, our boys were treasures, though 
now and again they liked to twit themselves 
for doing "women's work." "Wouldn't I 
make a good wife for some one, sister ? " 
one used to ask me, as he slapped a wet 
flannel round the floor or cut up the bread 
for meals. Poor boy, he had been very 
badly gassed in the memorable first Hun 
attack, and he was still subjected to dreadful, 
prostrating headaches. 
100 



HOUSEKEEPING ON SERVICE 

Active- service housekeeping, interesting 
though it is, soon, however, begins to pall 
even on the most fervent apostle of the 
domestic arts. 

Housekeeping is an exhaustive business 
even when one has only a small home family 
to cater for. How much more is it so when 
the family is one of sixty-five people and 
with meals duplicated breakfast at 7, at 
7.30, and then for the night sisters at 8, 
" snack " lunch of the buffet variety from 
9 to 10, two midday lunches, two teas, two 
dinners, and invariably some individual meals 
to keep warm for sisters delayed. 

Then, too, much as one wishes to make 
more comfortable and homelike the life of 
those hard-working women, yet one cannot 
have the same vim and enthusiasm, nor 
experience the same fascination in " keeping 
house " for sisters as one does in working 
for, and tending, our brave boys. So most 
nurses and sisters gladly shake from their 
feet the dust of the mess-kitchen and wend 
their way back to the wards. 



101 



CHAPTER X 
THE TRIALS OF A HOME SISTER 

SCENE I. The HOME SISTER interviews the 
COOK. Time 9.30 a.m. 

HOME SISTER seated at table in mess. Enter 
CORPORAL. 

H. S. Good morning, Corporal. 

C. Gcod morning, Sister. 

H. S. What can you give us for meals 
to-day ? 

C. [dryly]. Well, it's wot have we got. 

H. S. I thought you might manage ris- 
soles. That would be a nice change. 

C. Yu-u-s. [Pause, continuing]. I don't 
know wot we'll make them of. 

H. S. Well, there are the remains of last 
night's joints. 

C. Well, there isn't much. 

H. S. I'll see what there is. [C. dis- 
102 



THE TRIALS OF A HOME SISTER 

appears.] These men have no initiative 
and no interest. What a pity we don't have 
V.A.D. cooks. Women are so very clever 
in using up left overs. Just like the French, 
who can make a really marvellous meal out 
of a scrap of garlic, a piece of dripping the 
size of a walnut, and the claws of a deceased 
pigeon. 

[Re-enter C. with dish, whereon ex- 
tremely clean bones. 

C. There isn't enough there, yer know, 
Sister. 

H. S. [in very hopeful voice]. Oh, I don't 
know, there are some quite nice pieces there. 
Besides, you could eke it out with bully. 
I want you to make two rissoles for each 
sister. That will be a hundred and thirty 
[in a final tone]. That's settled. Oh, yes, 
and you might, too, make an extra two dozen 
for the night sisters. 

C. [aside]. Well, she has some 'opes. 

H. S. Vegetables and milk pudding you'll 
serve as usual, except that we should prefer 
them rather better than usual in the actual 
serving. The potatoes yesterday were very 
lumpy. 

103 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

C. Well, that potato-masher you got down 
town isn't no good, Sister 

H. S. [interrupting]. No ? I thought my- 
self that a little longer boiling of the potatoes 
might have improved matters. Now about 
dinner. Have you any suggestions ? 

C. [dryly]. Well, it's wot have we got. 

H. S. I thought of a tapioca soup, it is 
so nourishing, fricassee of chicken, steamed 
peach pudding with a sweet sauce, and 
cheese straws, as your share of the meal. 

C. [aside]. I don't think. Her and her 
fancy ideas. I'll let her see [turning to 
SISTER]. Well, what about the stock, Sister ? 

H. S. The chicken bones, of course. 

C. I'm afraid they're nothing but bones, 
Sister. 

H. S. [in hopeful tones]. Well, eke it out 
with bully. [C. produces bones.] Good 
gracious, where are the pieces of chicken 
for the fricassee ? 

C. Well, Sister, there are that many dratted 
dogs about. 

H. S. But haven't you got a safe, man ? 

C. Yes, Sister, only the door hinge has 
been off this three month. 
104 



THE TRIALS OF A HOME SISTER 

H. S. I reported the matter. Hasn't it 
been mended ? [Writes industriously on 
memorandum.] To return to the matter of 
the soup, Corporal. 

C. Well, Sister, if you give me a few soup 
cubes, a tin of tomatoes, a bottle of sauce 
and a few potatoes to thicken it, I might 
manage something. 

H. S. And in place of the fricassee ? 

C. Well, Sister, we've got a lot of Macono- 
chie in hand. What if we got rid of some 
of those ? I could put in a couple of penny 
packets of curry powder and 

H. S. We'll leave it at that. See that 
the pudding is good. 

C. Yes, Sister . . . pudding. What about 
the peaches ? They hadn't any at the can- 
teen last night, and stores aren't due in till 
Saturday, and then they'll likely be late. 

H. S. [despairingly, after long pause]. What 
do you suggest ? 

C. Well, Sister, I could give you prunes 
and custard, but we've had them five times 
this week. And the apricots '11 want soak- 
ing, so you couldn't have those very well 
until to-morrow. And the sisters don't seem 

105 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

to care about raisins. And the bread pud- 
dings oh, well, they're a wash-out. And 
you'd spotted dick yesterday lunch. And 
the under-cook, he isn't very handy, so 
there's no chance of him making you any 
of these fancy puddings in advance this 
afternoon. So what do you think about 
duff and treacle ? 

H. S. [icily]. Suet pudding and treacle, 
then. 

C. And, Sister, I don't see how I'm to 
manage the cheese straws. 

H. S. And why ? 

C. Well, it's like this, Sister. We're on 
half-rations and drew no cheese for three 
days, and I don't suppose I'll get any for 
another three. 

H. S. [more icily]. Omit the cheese straws. 
[Pause. Then exit C. 

H. S. [soliloquizing sighingly]. It's very, 
very disappointing somehow, when one tries 
one's hardest. Let me see, I drew up quite 
a nice dinner for the sisters to-night, 
a tapioca soup, fricassee of chicken with 
creamed potatoes, steamed peach pudding 
and sauce, and cheese straws. And what 
106 



THE TRIALS OF A HOME SISTER 

are we to have ? a query soup, disguised 
Maconoehie, suet pudding and treacle. . . . 
Well, we're on active service. I suppose we 
must take the rough with the smooth . . . 
only sometimes it seems all rough and no 
smooth. 

[Re-enter C. 

C. Sister, Jock has been inoculated and 
will be off duty the next twenty-four hours. 
My leave has just come through and I've 
got to go at eleven o'clock. So I don't know 
how you'll manage for lunch and dinner, 
with nobody in the cook-house. . . . By the 
way, Sister, you promised me some cigarettes 
when I went on leave. . . . 

[Collapse of SISTER. 



107 



CHAPTER XI 
B.E.F. NICKNAMES 

WHEN a few cheery souls, such as the men of 
our Army, get together, nicknames inevit- 
ably abound. I have encountered a great 
many Army-bred nicknames in the past two 
years, have been present at the baptism of 
some. " Orderly, I wish you could find 
time to give me a shave to-day," once re- 
marked a smooth-faced boy of eighteen. 
" A what ! " came in chorus from the other 
more mature men of the ward. " Orderly, 
you'll need a microscope or some forcing 
lotion. A shave, indeed ! '' And for 
the rest of the time the boy was in 
the ward, he was known as " the young 
shaver." 

It was in the same ward that we had 
another young boy who was very fond of 
chocolate. Hence, although he was " a good 
108 



B.E.F. NICKNAMES 

plucked 'un " and had been wounded twice 
he became known to many and sundry as 
"The Chocolate Soldier." 

One youngster earned his nickname 
through mispronunciation. I took his 
name, number, etc., on admission, and then 
asked " What is the trouble, boy ? " " Syno- 
blitus (synovitis) of the right knee, sister." 
So Synoblitus he became, which was duly 
shortened to Blitus, and then got to Blighty 
which, poor boy, was more than he got, 
as the synovitis was too slight to merit an 
expensive, albeit very pleasant, journey 
westward. 

As among schoolboys, the personal appear- 
ance is a fruitful source of nicknames. Thus 
a very tall, thin man, was dubbed " Pull 
through " from his testified resemblance to 
the piece of cord and brass known as a pull- 
through, and used to clean the rifle. " Snow- 
ball " was the owner of a bullet head covered 
with very, very fair, pale, straw-coloured 
hair, and when he lay tucked in bed with the 
bedclothes above his nose and only his fair 
hair showing, he really did resemble a large 
snowball. The cognomen " Snowflake " on 

109 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

the other hand, was a piece of irony which 
was appreciated and enjoyed by the owner 
of the name as much as by any one else, for 
he was a native of Trinidad and dusky as 
could be. " Darkey " had spent a good 
many years in Mexico, and had become very 
swarthy in the time. " Somebody's darling " 
had fair, curly hair, blue eyes, pink cheeks, 
and a bow mouth and was aged eighteen. 
" Charlie Chaplin " shortened to " Charlie " 
and " Chappie " owed his name to his walk, 
or, more truthfully, to his feet which were 
inclined to be distant with one another. 
" Farmer Garge " was a bluff and hearty, 
beef-and-beer, John-Bull type of man with 
a big, red face, and as much mutton-chop as 
the Army allows. 

I am afraid I was responsible for one nick- 
name. There was one little boy in the ward 
who simply wouldn't talk. All we could 
charm from him was monosyllables, a few 
smiles, and many blushes. " Now, Magpie " 
I said one day when I went to make his bed, 
" talkative as ever I suppose." And " Mag- 
pie " stuck to him. After he had left the 
ward the other men told me he had been 
110 



B.E.F. NICKNAMES 

accustomed to declare himself a woman 
hater ! [he was aged eighteen] and one 
thing he didn't mind about up the line 
was that there were no women. On pro- 
testation he admitted oh, balm to my 
'satiable vanity ! he didn't mind " our 
sister," she " wasn't half a bad sort, that 
she wasn't." 

Then we had " Dormouse " who had a 
truly voracious appetite for sleep, would 
sleep like the Seven Sleepers all night, and 
then doze like an octogenarian all day. 
" Rip Van Winkle " was the name bestowed 
on a man of similar tendency in another 
ward. " Tiny " and " Bantam " were play- 
ful pieces of irony, for both were Grenadiers 
whose toes came to the bottom of the 
bed. Ironical, too, was the designation of 
" Lightning " to a bulky, leisurely moving 
man who, according to the concensus of 
general ward opinion, was " too slow to 
catch cold." 

One night, we had brought in two boys 
who came straight from the trenches bringing 
with them thick shocks of hair and semi- 
patriarchal beards. 

Ill 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

u Well, sister, have you any one you would 
like me to see ? " asked the divisional major 
of a nurse, when, a little later, he did his 
rounds. He referred, of course, to any 
anxious cases. 

u Yes," said she, interpreting his words 
quite literally and naughtily pointing out 
the two boys. " Here are Robinson Crusoe 
and his man Friday." 

Both joined the Major in a broad grin and 
" Crusoe " and " Friday " they remained so 
long as they stayed with us. 

Certain nicknames are given as a matter 
of course Jock to Scotchmen, Geordie to 
North countrymen, Taffy to Welshmen, Pat 
to Irishmen, " Aussy " to Australians or 
otherwise " we from Kangerland," " Dads " 
to any old or rather should I say " old- 
looking " man, " Sonny " and " Chikko " 
to "youngsters," "Boy" to all and sundry. 
A man too, is often addressed by the name 
of the district from which he hails. " Now, 
Lancashire [or Warwick or Gloucester, etc.], 
muck in. DVer think yer a blooming ser- 
geant-major ? ?r 

Nicknames spring up rife in these happy- 
112 



B.E.F. NICKNAMES 

go-lucky, soldier gatherings. The main 
thing is to possess one, for a nickname is a 
sign of good fellowship, bon camaraderie, 
popularity, a sign that the owner is admitted 
to the coterie of pals, a sign that he is " in 
the swim." 



113 



CHAPTER XII 
" BLIGHTY " 

" GET the temperature down and then ..." 
The Medical Officer pauses significantly 
and smiles. Whereat the patient grins 
broadly at him and at the sister, and, as they 
move to the next bed, his thoughts have 
already landed in England. 

A couple of days later, probably, he re- 
ceives his tickets, and the congratulations 
of the ward. " Two tickets," he is warned 
by the waggish one of the party," one to go 
with and one to come back with." 

" That's all right, Sour Grapes. So long 
as I get there, I'm willing to come back and 
give old Fritz one in the neck, for doing it 
down on me now. What would you give 
me*. for my chance of England, Home and 
Huddersfield ? " glancing up at the suspended 
tickets. 
114 



" BLIGHTY " 

Meantime his " going-away costume " is 
stowed into the bottom of his locker 
pyjamas, warm undershirt, bed socks, helmet 
and muffler. Were he a " sitting case " 
with a slight G.S.W. of the arm or head, or a 
" sick " case with a slight disease of the heart 
or debility, he would have a full, khaki, 
clothing kit drawn from the stores, this kit 
being supplemented if necessary, with an 
extra muffler, or an extra pair of woollen 
mittens or similar comfort, from the Red 
Cross Stores. 

These kits are put in readiness almost 
immediately, for a patient has often been 
warned, and evacuated within an hour of 
receiving tickets. Some cases are occa- 
sionally given tickets but their evacuation 
is delayed for a time owing to their not being 
in a fit condition to travel. The tickets are, 
however, given them for the excellent mental 
effect their possession has upon the jpatient, 
and consequently in great measure upon his 
progress. 

There are three headings which a medical 
officer uses when filling in tickets for England 
cases. Each patient, as most people know, 

115 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

receive two tickets resembling luggage labels, 
and bearing in addition to the name of the 
hospital or the number of the C.C.S. casualty 
clearing station the patient's name, number, 
and regiment, together with the date and the 
name of the hospital ship by which the 
patient travels. 

On the reverse side of the ticket are 
chronicled the diagnosis, any treatment re- 
quired en route, the man's age, total service, 
service in France and religion, all items of 
information sometimes required. If any- 
thing additional is to be forwarded, such as a 
history of the case, a medical case sheet, an 
X-ray photograph, etc., it is enclosed in a 
special envelope. Certain cases are indicated 
in a particular manner, e.g., nephritics have 
a yellow label distinctive of nephritis, and 
hence ensuring a " nephritic diet " en route. 

Each ticket has a further inscription in 
block letters, " C SITTING " " L.T.B." and 
"L.T.A." "C SITTING" means a seat on 
the ambulance car, a seat on board ship, 
unless, of course, the length of the journey 
demands a cot, and a seat on the train and 
ambulance car in England. It is also 
116 



" BLIGHTY ' 

further understood that the man, after in- 
spection on embarking, needs no special 
attention beyond the usual nursing care and 
supervision. 

" Lying train B " patients are stretcher 
cases throughout the journey. They are 
brought from the ward on a stretcher, have a 
stretcher place on the ambulance car, a cot 
on board, and lying accommodation to the 
hospital in England. 

" Lying train A " patients are conveyed 
in similar fashion to those marked " L.T.B." 
except that being more serious cases, they 
have the best positioned cots on board. The 
greatest number of cots, by the way, are 
swing cots. 

Helpless cases one is thankful to say 
they are infrequent have a red cross 
diagonally across their tickets, and the word 
" helpless " printed in block at the foot of 
the ticket. Why are such cases sent ? Be- 
cause the patients get to a stage when the 
longing for " Blighty " is retarding their 
progress, the bed is wanted and the particu- 
lar case is tedious, and requires long home 
nursing as distinctive from A.S. nursing, e.g., 

119 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

baths, electrical massage, certain prolonged 

treatments. 

* * * 

"All L.T.B.s due at the point at 10.30, 
sister. Ambulance train in," comes the 
message ; 9.30 now, no time to lose. Dress- 
ing sheets, bandages, lotions, cotton wool, 
drums are brought out, instruments and 
lotion bowls boiled or fired, and one sets to 
work to do the necessary dressings, and make 
the wounds as comfortable and safe as 
possible. The wounds finished, one helps to 
dress wounded lying patients, and inspects 
the sitting cases. This inspection is most 
necessary, for " men are but children of a 
larger growth," which was just another way 
of saying that men are as irresponsible as 
naughty boys. 

Thus the masculine sex, as a class, has a 
rooted objection to fastening the neck of its 
shirt, preferring on a bitterly cold, January 
day to invite pneumonia as ardently as any 
foolish flapper with the veriest V-shaped 
blouse. It delights too, in hurrying into its 
nether garments and making a brave show 
to the world in well-pulled-down khaki, 
120 



" BLIGHTY ' 

brightly burnished buttons and well-rolled 
puttees, even though its cardigan is guiltless 
of a button, and its socks are only fit for the 
waste-wool bag. 

Finally, all are fixed and rounded up, and 
the " sitting cases " potter about first on one 
impatient leg then the other, like so many 
little boys keen to be off to a party, and 
privately thinking no doubt that we are 
frightfully fussy when we insist on every 
string and buckle being fastened. 

Good-byes and handshakes are over, and 
they troop out in charge of an orderly who 
takes them to the point. I stand at the tent 
door half a minute, and wave to them as they 
look back. Poor lads, bruised in the battle, 
heads bandaged, arms in slings, shuffling 
feet in great trench slippers, limping foot- 
steps aided by a couple of walking sticks 
poor boys ! But in England there is rest and 
peace, and time to pause and take breath. . . 
I turn to help stretcher bearers and orderly 
move the lying cases on to the stretchers, 
and to see blankets tucked snugly round 
feet and throat, treasure bag tucked under 
the pillow, and any little needful accessory 

121 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

supplied, a jaconet-covered pillow on which 
to rest a wounded arm, a small pillow under 
the shoulder, or, as has sometimes happened, 
to tie or to bandage in place a little ring 
pillow we have specially made to relieve 
pressure on an injured surface. 

Then an onslaught on the beds, this bed- 
ding and mattress to the fumigator, that frac- 
ture board to be scrubbed with cresolis, this 
bedstead to be carbolised, this mackintosh 
sheet to be carbolised, these bandages to be 
soaked in a disinfectant and then to go to the 
wash, this cradle to be wiped with strong 
carbolic, these beds to be re-made with clean 
linen. And so we speed the parting guest, 

and make ready for the newcomers. 
* * * 

Ambulance train No. X is drawn up in a 
siding. Standing there on a curve of the 
rails its fourteen coaches all absolutely uni- 
form in height, shape and colour khaki 
with the Red Cross it looks from the dis- 
tance ridiculously like a toy, a child's play- 
thing rather than the meeting place of hope- 
lessness and hope, despair and thankfulness, 
sorrow and joy, tragedy and comedy. 
122 



"BLIGHTY' 

The train is ready to receive its load, beds 
made, pillows freshly tossed, clean linen laid 
out, the cooks already preparing the dinner, 
the theatre absolutely ready for any emer- 
gency operation, the dispensary looking spick 
and span, the orderlies putting in readiness 
sundry drinks, the sisters walking up and 
down supervising, seeing to any deficiencies 
and adding any little touch of brightness or 
extra comfort to the wards. The Medical 
Officer in charge of the train, and the Train 
Officer are on the platform ready to see all 
patients placed on board. The ambulance 
cars arrive, two or three at a time. It is 
wonderful how steadily the stream of cars is 
maintained, avoiding both congestion and 
the slightest loss of time. The cars are drawn 
close to the door of the compartment, the 
stretchers drawn out, lifted on level with the 
floor of the carriage, drawn in, then raised 
to the bed which is either at the level of the 
ordinary compartment seat or, in case of the 
upper berth, on level with the smaller and 
lower luggage rack found in an ordinary 
train. This unloading from car and loading 
on train is done extremely deftly, most ex- 

123 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

peditiously, and with the minimum of 
movement. Of course, the nature of the 
cases determine in great measure the length of 
time taken to load a train, but three hundred 
cases have often been entrained in less than 
an hour. 

The train loaded, it is interesting to walk 
along it while the M.O. in charge checks 
numbers, signs documents, and goes through 
the usual formalities with the Train Officer. 
Except that all the passengers are khaki-clad, 
and most of them are bandaged, the compart- 
ments containing the sitting cases look much 
like those of any other train. Here are men 
spreading an overcoat preparatory to playing 
cards, there are men unfurling newspapers 
a couple of days old and flicking over the 
leaves of magazines. Here are men fidget- 
ing about ventilators and fussing about 
windows. Here is a luggage agitator, mis- 
placing and getting excited about his luggage 
all contained in a " Sister- Susie " bag just 
as effectually as though he had Saratoga, 
cabin trunks and portmanteaux galore. 

The lying cases or " lyers " as they often 
call themselves, clad in great coats and pyja- 
124 



" BLIGHTY 5 

mas, are shorn of their coat and put to bed. 
Some go into compartments arranged like a 
four-bunk cabin, the two seats forming two 
beds, and in place of the customary luggage 
racks, two more beds. Other coaches are 
not divided into compartments, but have 
tiers of beds arranged longitudinally with the 
train, and thus make a ward of thirty-six or 
forty beds. Most beds are woven on the 
hammock principle, and hence are softer and 
more comfortable than if made of wood and 
springs. All have conveniently placed straps 
near them for support. Bells, too, are handy, 
in case a summons for assistance is necessary. 
These bells, however, are extremely infre- 
quently used, as orderlies, sisters and medical 
officers are constantly on duty, passing 
almost incessantly up and down. An average 
train staff might consist of forty or fifty 
orderlies, two staff nurses, a sister acting- 
matron, one doctor, or two doctors, with the 
rank of captain and a major in charge. There 
is also the kitchen staff, for hundreds of 
dinners, teas, suppers, breakfasts, and diets 
must be cooked in the spotlessly clean, 
beautifully tidy, little kitchen. 

125 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

A coach provides for the nursing staff, 
mess room, tiny writing-room and sleeping 
quarters. One compartment is allotted as 
living or, rather, sleeping-quarters to each 
two nurses, the compartment seat providing 
the bed, the luggage rack the wardrobe, and 
the rest of the compartment everything else 
necessary. Somewhat circumscribed in area, 
of course, but what would you ? It is better 
than a dug-out, and one is not hypercritical 
of bed on active service, especially after a 
long journey, which has, on occasion, lasted 
thirty hours, and during which time there 
has only been, exclusive of hurried meal 
times, an hour off-duty for resting. 

Life for the hospital staff of a train is apt 
to be a pretty strenuous affair with peeps of a 
dolce far niente if the train happens to need 
repairs. Should the repairs take a long 
time, the nursing staff is drafted for duty to 
an adjacent hospital. 

Here are extracts from a diary of a " train 
sister " : 

July 2. Loaded at 8 a.m. Arrived E 2 

a.m. Back to G by midnight. 

126 



" BLIGHTY' 

Straightened the wards and slept on the 
return journey. 

July 3. Loaded and arrived B by 9 a.m. 

Back to F by 6 p.m. Take on four 

hundred and sixty stretcher cases. 

July 4. Arrive R . Left at noon for 

V . Five hundred and sixty cases, 

two hundred of whom were Germans. 

July 5. From V to E - then back to 

V , which left at midnight. 

July 6. Arrived C at 7 a.m. Unloaded 

and at V again at 1.30 p.m. Arrive 

E at 11 p.m. 

July 7. Awoke at A en route for D . 

Arrive at 11 a.m. 

July 17. Arrive S- - at 9.30 a.m. Town 
criers telling inhabitants to be in their 
cellars by 8 p.m. What a curfew ! 

Aug. 1. Left 4 a.m. gathering patients at 

A , F and D . Total, five 

hundred cases and weather very hot. 
Arrive at E on the coast. Gorgeous. 

Aug. 13. Loaded rather late to-night. Up 
all night. 

127 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

Aug. 14. Arrive R 8 a.m. Bought 

some bread, fresh butter and fruit. 
Left 11 a.m. Arrive L 8 p.m. 

Aug. 15. In L all day. Went for a 

walk, and passing through a cemetery, 
found there the grave of "Jimmy Anzac " 
whom I had nursed in Malta. Poor, 
poor boy, and what a strange chance I 
should find his grave. 

Sep. 3. Loaded at A , B , R , 

on to B . Arrived 11 p.m. 

Sep. 4. Off again at 8.30. Same journey 
as yesterday. Arrived back at 9 p.m. 
Concertina part of train damaged. In 
garage for repairs. 

Sep. 6. Left for L . Bored with ra~ 

tions so made cakes for tea on the way. 
How good they tasted ! 

Sep. 7. Made arrangements for more per- 
manent cross over Jimmy's grave. Off 

loaded to B . Very big load, third 

of which Germans. 



128 



" BLIGHTY' 

H.M. Hp. S. D . . . lies straining at her 
moorings, a great, big, white beauty with the 
distinctive green band and the three red 
crosses one amidships, one to stem, one to 
stern painted on her bows, and above, on 
deck, the great red crosses to be lighted at 
night. Sailors pass leisurely to and fro in the 
detached, desultory manner that sailors have. 
A batch of R.A.M.C. orderlies stand idling 
by a heap of brown blankets. A couple of 
sisters lean over the taffrail lazily gossiping. 
Not a medical officer is to be seen. 

There she lies, as idle as a painted ship 
upon a painted ocean. 

Then the snorting of an engine, and the 
thunder of heavy wheels, and round the 
curve of the railway comes a long khaki- 
coloured hospital train. The ship imme- 
diately becomes a bustle of activity. 
Stretcher bearers run down the gangway to 
the stretchers waiting in readiness on the 
platform, for this particular ship happens to 
be moored alongside the railway station of a 
great French port. 

The ship's medical officers come down to 
receive their cases from the care of the train's 

I 129 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

officers. Any patient who has been ill on 
the train journey and is liable to be adversely 
affected by the sea- journey is detained for a 
few days, and sent into a hospital wfrch 
adjoins the station, and which has been 
housed in the premises of the gare, the buffets, 
waiting-rooms, douane, etc. Here a patient 
who has had, perhaps, a haemorrhage brought 
on by the jolting of the train can recuperate, 
and have a further rest before proceeding on 
his journey. 

The cases are sorted, the heavier ones, 
i.e., those needing most assistance, being 
detailed to the top decks so as to be more 
quickly got off the boat in case of accident. 
The lighter cases, i.e., those able to help 
themselves, go to the lower decks and in the 
downstairs wards. Cases possible to haemorr- 
hage or to require dressing are put into 
lower berths, while bad travelling cases, e.g., 
those with abdominal injuries or with gastric 
trouble are given the best placed berths with 
the least amount of rocking attendant. Even 
spinal cases are carried, and carried most 
successfully too, splintered from head to 
foot, of course, and subject to every precau- 
180 



44 BLIGHTY ' 

tion and care throughout the journey. 

Splints by the way, are quite freely used 

when dressing the cases for England, not 

merely for fractures, but wherever jolting or 

movement of a limb is likely to cause pain. 

The walking cases, meantime, with huge 

Blighty smiles which broaden in superlative 

fashion as they greet us, have ensconced 

themselves on board, and have either found 

cushy chairs or seats and magazines, which 

they show little inclination as yet to read, 

or are watching the stretcher cases taken on 

board and sent by lift to the deck specified. 

These lifts combine the maximum utility 

with the minimum of space and elaboration. 

They consist of a grooved wooden support 

to take the ends of the stretcher with a 

webbed surface underlying the stretcher itself 

and their raising or lowering is worked by a 

belt. 

All patients duly aboard and comfortably 
settled, tea is served. Then comes a walk 
round the ship which has not yet started her 
journey on account of certain sailing restric- 
tions. One peeps in at the dispensary with 
its lotions and potions, its ungents and 

131 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

palliatives ; then another peep at the operat- 
ing theatre, a beautiful, white room fitted 
with two tables for emergency work, and, 
fortunately, not often required unless in 
case of a long journey or in a heavy rush of 
patients. 

The open door of the " wireless room " 
shows a small cabin where all night long an 
operator will do his little bit towards ensur- 
ing a safe journey for the poor, broken boys 
aboard. One eyes somewhat more than 
inquisitively the stacked rafts, the open boats 
and the two motor launches, the latter known 
as Puffing Billy and Snorting Lizzie, Lizzie 
being the one into which the wireless 
operator and his batteries are to go in case 
of necessity. 

Many people who realise how enormous is 
the task of moving wounded will have mar- 
velled at the proportionately small number of 
casualties when hospital ships have been 
torpedoed. This is undoubtedly due to the 
fact that every member of the staff of the 
ship knows his or her duty in such circum- 
stances, each has been drilled in his or her 
particular work, and routine, and the realisa- 
132 



'BLIGHTY' 

tion of the importance of that duty have 
done the rest. 

So far as preparedness goes, it is somewhat 
amusing to note that many of the nursing 
sisters when on long journeys used to sleep 
in their swimming costumes. 

The autumn afternoon has waned in a 
purple-red splendour and darkness falls. 
Supper has been served, and we walk round 
each ward. We are not carrying officers on 
this journey, and the L.T.A. boys have the 
officers' cots, placed in what was formerly 
the ladies' drawing-room. The lights are 
shaded and the little cream curtains drawn 
where requested. " Cushy, sister " we are 
assured, " if it warn't for the island at the 
other side of the water, I could stay here for 
the duration." 

Down below, the sitting cases are going 
to bed in a big ward having tiers of beds 
arranged on metal supporting rods. The 
effect is, in a way, somewhat grotesque for 
the arrangement reminds one of so many 
tins of cakes in the cooling room of a bakery. 
On the way to the deck, we see through an 
open door into the engine room, with four 

133 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

huge boilers like Brobdignagian sparking 
plugs. 

Above we find an unexpected shower of 
rain. Drawn alongside our hospital ship is a 
leave boat, dull grey in colour, and with 
decks roofed in tarpaulin, whose wet surface 
brightly glistens in the light of a naptha 
flare. 

On the quay is a queue of khaki boys, 
jesting and happy, wholly disregardful of so 
slight a thing as the weather. Their leave 
papers examined they run up the gangway, 
a hunched figure with " humpy " well-hitched 
on to their shoulders, and with heart, no 
doubt, as light as their pack is heavy. The 
dark-roofed ship swallows them as effec- 
tually as a tank does, and we think of the dim 
phantom with her war-worn freight stealing 
through the grey waters. Good luck, boys, 
and a good leave. 

The rain ceases as unexpectedly as it came, 
and by the time we put out to sea, a young 
moon shines benignly on us, promising a 
smooth passage. A good passage we have, 
too, and a quiet uneventful night so far as the 
nursing is concerned. 
134 



'BLIGHTY' 

" Sister, where are we, and is it really 
morning ? ' 

" Lying off Netley, and it is half-past seven." 

" So we're across. No tin fishes." 

" Of course not." 

" And I haven't been seasick." 

" Of course not." 

" And we're all glad to leave IT behind 
for awhile." 

66 OF COURSE NOT." 

There is only one form of repartee in the 
Tommy Atkins vocabulary to meet that 
remark, and it comes 

" I DON'T think, sister." 

Four trains are drawn up at the English 
port to take away the cases from our hos- 
pital ship, and those from another which 
has come in alongside us. The first train is 
filled quickly with the more slightly- wounded 
sitting-cases, and is sent a short journey so 
as to be back in time to fill up again with the 
last patients left on board. The heaviest 
cases are also sent the shortest possible 
journey consistent with the best nursing and 
medical conditions, so as to eliminate, as 
much as possible, travelling and jolting. 

135 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

Once the train starts, heads are stretched 
and necks craned to catch a glimpse of the 
land of our many thoughts, and occasional 
dreams, while we were " out there." The 
morning sun pours floods of light on the 
reds and russets, the golds and bronzes, the 
browns and dark greens of the wooded 
copses. We catch fleeting glimpses of red- 
roofed farms, trim, well-built dwelling houses, 
orderly little towns, and adorable little 
English children ! Ours is a country worth 
fighting for, worth dying for, worth being 
maimed for. A funny thing love of one's 
native land. We who have endured heart- 
breaking scenes in those hospital wards in 
Normandy look away from one another now 
and blink very hard. 

Otherwise, we bid fair to make fools of our- 
selves soon. 



136 



CHAPTER XIII 
HEROES IN THEIR CARPET SLIPPERS 

" WHAT are the men like ? " a military 
nurse is very often asked. " Do they make 
good patients ? v 

Well, all the eulogies that have been 
showered on them, all the epithets and 
superlatives that have been rained on them, 
are but deserved. Splendid, magnificent, 
superb, they certainly are, heroes undoubtedly. 
But no man is a hero to his valet, and no 
man will permit himself to be a hero to his 
nurse. Homeric and epic they may be, but 
that fact they jealously guard from their 
nurse. Hence it is the homely human side 
we see. It is their trivial weaknesses, their 
little peculiarities, their big rough-diamond 
virtues we know. We see heroism shorn of 
its rifle, bayonet, and shrapnel helmet, and 
dressed in loose " blues " and carpet slippers. 

137 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

Their brave deeds they persistently hide 
from us. " And what did you do to win the 
M.M. ? 5: one boy was asked. " Ah only 
feteht a man hin," he almost surlily replied, 
his averted face plainly showing a disinclina- 
tion for further conversation. 

Later, when our little blandishments had 
worn down his dourness, he thawed enough 
to explain that it took eleven hours to bring 
in the man, that he was " as good an officer 
as ever put two feet into shoes," that both 
of them were wounded, and craved for water, 
and that he had had to drag or carry the 
officer every inch of the way. Think of it ! 
Eleven hours, almost a waking day, from 
breakfast to dinner-time, and every minute 
an exquisite torture of pain, perpetual sus- 
pense, and concentrated effort. But that 
was nothing to talk to " Sister " about. 
" Ah only feteht a man hin." 

With regard to decorations, they are 
modesty in excelsis. Although whispers pass 
round to other patients that another has a 
decoration, and let me add their consequent 
respect and envy, yet the owner himself 
never alludes to it, he might be suspected 
138 



HEROES IN CARPET SLIPPERS 

of " swank." One man I congratulated on 
the possession of the M.M. " Oh ! " depre- 
catingly, " only an apology for the V.C. 
But," with a little smile, " my wife will 
be pleased." 

In the earlier, more leisurely days of the 
war we used to prefer the boys while in the 
wards to wear their ribbons, the South 
African, the D.C.M., the M.M., pinned to 
their pyjama coats, but the modest wretches 
had a habit of taking off either of the two 
latter and hiding it when our backs were 
turned. They seemed to dread the other 
men regarding the wearing of it as their 
conceit rather than our wishes. 

As patients, " our boys " are perpetually 
amazing. They will silently endure agonies 
from wounds and dressings, and yet groan 
and even howl when one removes a little 
adhesive plaster. They will tolerate stoically 
a shrapnel-ridden left leg, and yell from the 
further end of the ward to have a pillow or 
a piece of cotton wool moved under the heel 
of the right. 

Their sangfroid is tremendous. One 
smoked a pipe half-an-hour before he died, 

139 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

others one has caught smoking a cigarette 
within a few minutes of coming from the 
theatre. " Oh, I'm going great guns, sister," 
said a little boy with an amputation of the 
left leg. "As a matter of fact," went on 
the dreadful boy, " I think it will be a good 
idea to cut the other leg off to the same 
length. Then I could join the bantams. 
Don't look so shocked, sister." 

Another boy smoked a cigarette (bless the 
shade of Sir Walter Raleigh !) and joked to 
a sister who was holding up for him a picture 
paper the while his leg was being amputated 
below the knee. Stovaine was used, and 
the operation was very successful. 

The way the boys accept matters is simply 
marvellous. One was taken into the theatre 
to have a minor operation to his leg. Matters, 
however, were found to be so much worse 
than had been evident that it was a case of 
amputating the leg or letting the boy die. 
Naturally, the leg was taken off, and when 
I came on duty at night it was to be told 
to the boy, who was still under the influence 
of the anaesthetic and did not, of course, 
know of the amputation. 
140 



HEROES IN CARPET SLIPPERS 

I dreaded having to tell him. Each of 
the several times I went to feel his pulse, 
look at his dressing, etc., he was asleep, so 
next morning when the lights were fully 
turned up I went in trepidation to wash him 
and make his bed. To my astonishment he 
knew : he had awakened during the night, 
seen the bedclothes turned back a plan we 
always adopt to facilitate the immediate 
detection of any possible haemorrhage had 
realized what had happened, and quietly 
gone to sleep again without my knowing he 
had been awake. " Of course, it is a great 
grief to me," he remarked, " but " very 
charmingly " I have been long enough here 
to know that whatever any one did for me 
is for the best." 

Winter nights in hospital are the most 
domesticated times. It is then that our 
warriors from the trenches completely un- 
bend. Wind and snow are lashing outside, 
but the tents are tightly laced, and blankets 
hung over the drawn entrance flaps. After 
supper gramophones, dominoes, cards, and 
games are put away, and often the up- 
patients will crowd round the stove, when 

141 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

somehow the conversation invariably turns 
to the old and young folks at home. 

Then each newcomer takes his photograph 
from his " Sister Susie bag," while older 
patients sit round ready on the slightest 
pretext to do the same, although we have 
already seen their photographs. On each, 
one makes adequate comments while occa- 
sionally having to cudgel one's brain for 
appropriate and pleasing remark. 

"That's the eldest girl. She is thirteen, 
and has just won a scholarship." 

" Really ! She looks very clever. And 
what beautiful hair ! " 

"That's the youngest, ten months. I 
haven't seen him. That's my wife and 
family." 

" Very capable woman I should think." 

" Ah, she is that. Makes all the children's 
clothes. She made those frocks they have 



on.' r 



" Indeed ! " one says in a tone of surprise 
sufficient to be gratifying, though one glance 
at the delineated garments is enough to 
advertise the brave little effort blatantly, 
and, in a way, pathetically. Later, demands 
142 



HEROES IN CARPET SLIPPERS 

are made on our admiration on behalf of 
little girls in white dresses standing by 
pedestals adorned with baskets of flowers, 
little boys dressed a la Fauntleroy, with 
hand on head of a shaggy mongrel with not 
an atom of breeding, but quite evidently a 
faithful, great-hearted, doggy thing, entirely 
lovable. And lastly there is " Me, taken 
in France." 

" Me, taken in France " is invariably very 
glossy, very shiny, full-length, post card size, 
three for a franc. A Frenchman taken in 
this style twirls his moustache, throws out 
his chest, puts on a pour-ma-patrie expres- 
sion, and looks quite in the picture. But a 
British gunner sitting gingerly on a Louis 
Quatorze chair in front of a Watteauesque 
terrace, with peacock sailing along a British 
gunner with firmly planted feet and hands, 
and a very conscious, almost defiant, expres- 
sion peculiar to his photographed state, 
presents a sight, which to say the least, is 
somewhat amusingly incongruous. Still we 
mete out a semi-critical admiration, the 
critical suggestion being hinted at to ensure 
the genuineness of the admiration, and to 

143 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

remove any doubts that " sister's gettin' at 
yer." 

From the " Sister Susie " bags, too, come 
little souvenirs a rosary picked up on the 
battlefield, the nose of a shell, a trench ring, 
a watch-chain made from flattened bullets, 
and, often wrapped in a piece of bandage, 
the fragments of shrapnel " that bowled me 
over." This shrapnel is twisted into a piece 
of bandage and tied to the arm on the 
wounded side of the body when the man 
leaves the theatre, or it is sometimes laid 
on the stretcher and tied to his bedstead on 
the corresponding side. In the great majority 
of cases the men prize this shrapnel enor- 
mously, and have it made into a rough 
" charm " for sister or wife or sweetheart ; 
in a few other cases, " No, sister : I don't 
want it : had quite enough of it." 

During the July push several German 
helmets were brought down as souvenirs. 
I remember one man, with wound dressed 
and waiting for the Blighty train, seated 
outside the tent, asking me to admire his 
" millinery," a Prussian helmet, round which 
he had placed a string of dandelions. 
144 



HEROES IN CARPET SLIPPERS 

Yes, they are cheery, happy, casual sort 
of rascals, content, so long as they get their 
" Blighty tickets and a bit of furlough," to 
come back again and take up the game of 
" dodging Fritz and Co.," and strafing the 
" blinking old sossidge eaters." 



K 14(5 



CHAPTER XIV 
RED CROSS NEEDLEWORK 

AN APPRECIATION 

" SEVEN cases marked for England, five 
'Lying Train B, 9 and two C C Sitting.' I 
had better go to the Red Cross Stores and 
get their clothes," their " trousseau " or 
" going- away dress," the men usually call 
the outfit. 

As I leave the tent, I make a mental note 
of what I want. Seven shirts, five pairs of 
pyjamas, five pairs of bed-socks, five woollen 
helmets, seven pairs of cuffs, or mittens, and 
two thick scarves, since November weather 
in the Channel is too raw and bleak to take 
risks. Then, too, I had better replenish our 
stock of bath-gloves and " Dorothy bags " 
more commonly known among the men as 
" Sister Susie bags " our small pillows, 
milk covers, and nightingales. 
146 



RED CROSS NEEDLEWORK 

What a godsend to us is the tiny, tightly 
packed room known as the Red Cross Stores ! 
To convey what its comforts have meant to 
the maimed, bruised men they have clothed, 
to realize what it means to have such a 
supply to draw from, no human words are 
in any way adequate. The imagination 
might succeed a little better, though even 
then it would fall as far short of the reality 
as a child's attempted conception of a billion 
of anything. 

We nurses know how much the gifts and 
comforts are appreciated, and we would 
emphatically assure all the women who have 
associated themselves with the distaff part 
of war work that every garment or article 
made, earned from some painracked man 
his grateful, heartfelt, though inarticulate, 
thanks. Every stitch they have made meant 
a few minutes' greater comfort and corre- 
spondingly less pain from an aching body 
tortured on our behalf, for our defence and 
our birthrights. It is in no way a far- 
fetched statement to say that some gar- 
ments such as pneumonia jackets and 
cholera belts have prolonged a man's life. 

147 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

Many needlewomen have deplored and be- 
littled their share in the war's work ; they 
have deprecated their efforts because these 
have not necessitated the donning of a 
uniform and the complete upheaval of their 
former life. If they would imagine what 
the comfort and warmth of their nice, smooth, 
home-knitted socks are to cold, chilblained 
feet, if they could see the men snuggling 
head and frost-nipped ears into their cosy 
Balaclavas, if they could witness as we 
nurses have done how a small jaconet- 
covered pillow, placed under the scapula of 
a man with his arm in an extension, has 
secured for the poor man a good night's 
rest, there would be no more deprecating talk, 
no more half-sighing comments that " I don't 
seem to be doing much. I'm only a Sister 
Susie." Be proud you are a " Sister Susie." 
You are doing some of the most valuable war 
service. The comfort supplying department 
is as necessary to the Army Medical Service 
as the Commissariat or the Clothing Depart- 
ment is to the army in the field. The fight- 
ing forces are infinitely glad of the existence 
of Sister Susies and their nimble fingers. 
148 



RED CROSS NEEDLEWORK 

There are two sets of people I should like 
to take for half-an-hour into the Red Cross 
Stores of any E.F. Hospital. One is our 
fighting men and the other is the women 
slackers. I should like the men to see those 
many, many garments, each bearing tangible 
proof of myriads of kind thoughts towards 
them and aching desires to help them, some- 
times, doubtless, with hopes and fears, dumb 
sorrow and poignant anxiety woven into 
every loop of sock and meshed muffler. The 
slackers would, I hope, be shamed by those 
many evidences of tireless industry and by 
the unselfishness those garments epitomise 
into going and doing likewise. 

Look at this scarf. It was worked by 
frail fingers, the unevenness of the knitting 
shows that done by a child or an old lady. 
No, not by a child, the scarf is too long for 
a child's patience and concentration. Not 
only are the kind old knitter's hands frail, 
her eyesight is failing, too. Here the dropped 
stitches have been picked up not quite cor- 
rectly, here the matching of the wool is 
not accurate. But perhaps the latter was 
due to the limitations of the village shop, 

149 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

for one feels certain from the quality of the 
wool that the scarf was knitted by an old 
villager with not too many pennies to spare. 

Here is a bundle of neatly hemmed calico 
handkerchiefs labelled " Blackcote Girls' 
School, Std. II." Std. II sounds very 
juvenile, and evidently there underlies a 
Herculean effort. One conjures up a vision of 
curly dark and golden heads, earnestly bent 
over the squares of calico, as chubby two- 
inch-long fingers laboriously push hot and 
sticky needles through the calico, and occa- 
sionally into the pink flesh, in valiant 
attempts to do their baby share of the 
war- work. 

Last night one of " my boys " died. He 
had gas gangrene, and he cried continually, 
" Where's my lavender bag, sister ? My 
wound does smell so." I heaped some 
lavender bags into a piece of muslin and 
slipped it under his top pillow, besides hang- 
ing other satchets round him wherever pos- 
sible. There are dozens of other boys who 
appreciate the lavender bags, boys who are 
nauseated by the smell of their wound whilst 
it is being dressed. For their sake it is good 
150 



RED CROSS NEEDLEWORK 

to see a new consignment, bunches of half 
a dozen sprigs of lavender, the stalks serving 
as handle, and the blooms shielded with a 
muslin cover caught with ribbon, an excel- 
lent time-saving, handy, convenient method 
of sending out the lavender. 

The neat idea of the bags is typical of the 
dispatch with which all the work in the 
stores has been done. Any woman interested 
in needlework could not fail to note with 
admiring approval how cleverly garments 
and comforts have been designed to obtain 
simplicity of making, convenience of wear- 
ing, and the greatest economy of effort in 
their production. She need only look at 
the cut and the putting together of each 
article to see that they have been planned 
thoroughly well and ingeniously before ever 
the scissors were introduced to them, planned 
so as to make the best use of the material 
and the shortest use of the worker's time. 
They are sensible, useful, got-together-quickly 
garments, that are a credit to the needle- 
women who have so efficiently made them. 

Strict economy, too, one notes. Look at 
this wash-rag, ingeniously made by knitting 

151 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

up the torn-off selvedge discarded from 
lengths of calico ! And these slippers 
made from linoleum and scraps of strong 
cloth. 

Occasionally women may have felt a little 
depressed as the conscience- salvers recited 
the ancient tale of socks with " no shape," 
and shirts with " neckbands as large as waist- 
belts." It is an immense pity if they were 
adversely influenced by these remarks, if 
they allowed the ridicule to diminish their 
energies. 

Personally, I have never seen any such 
imaginary garment as the conscience-salvers 
love to cite and at which they love to sneer. 
Among many thousands of shirts, socks, 
pyjamas and bed- jackets, I have never seen 
one but was not very well made. Certainly 
I have never seen one garment of which we 
have not been able to make excellent use. 
So all the needlewomen who sew for " our 
boys " via the Red Cross, can rest assured 
that they do their " bit," a bit that is most 
gratefully appreciated, and they can con- 
tinue to ply their needle and thread into 
wool and cotton and flannel, and stitch, 
152 



RED CROSS NEEDLEWORK 

stitch, stitch for the boys who have gone 
forth to fight. 



NOTE 

The above was written in the autumn of 
1915. Since then we have in some branches 
made less call on the Red Cross. For ex- 
ample, pyjamas and stockings for England 
cases are drawn from the quartermaster's 
stores, but for the many needlework, and 
the countless little extra comforts which the 
Red Cross supply, all we nurses, on behalf 
of the " boys," are deeply grateful and 
extremely appreciative. 



153 



CHAPTER XV 
OUR CONCERTS 

AN O.A.S. concert is a much more exciting 
affair than any one at home would ever 
imagine. We come from far and near to a 
concert. When the chairs and forms are 
filled which happens all too soon we sit 
on billiard tables and overturned buckets, 
and even on the floor. The fortunate part 
of the overflow audience outside, stand on 
ration boxes and look in at the window, 
while the unfortunate part roams up and 
down, hearing a snatch of the performance 
here and another there, and living in hopes 
of the time when some cramped mortal may 
become tired of hanging on by the toes of 
one foot to a three-inch square of ration box, 
and will give up his place to the wandering 
snapper-up of greatly considered trifles. 

The front of the orchestra stalls looks like 
154 




s. 



P 1 Q 
- - 



OUR CONCERTS 

the pool of Bethesda. For hither have been 
brought those lying cases which can be 
carried, patients stretched in invalid chairs, 
boys with much bandaged legs or great 
bundles, representing feet, tenderly placed 
on another chair before them. 

Artistes assure us that we are " topping 
audiences " for none of us are blase and none 
of us are bored. We all join enthusiastically 
in the choruses, and it is quite amusing to 
have bandaged boys, choleric colonels, dash- 
ing majors, gentle nurses and high-spirited 
V.A.D.s firmly assuring every one in general 
and no one in particular : 

" Left, left, 
Fd a jolly good home 
And I leff 

or sighing against 

" The day when I'll be going down 
That long, long trail with you" 

Poor boys ! Some who have sung those 
words with us have already gone down the 
trail. 

The staging effects are a positive triumph 

157 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

of adaptation. The footlights are in biscuit 
tins, the hospital gear provides endless props 
and wardrobes. " The Bushrangers," for 
example, were in hospital shirts, red ties, 
riding-breeches, leggings, boots and " din- 
kum " hats. A rustic invariably appears 
in khaki trousers, tied under the knee with 
string, cotton shirt from hospital acting as 
smock, and one of the familiar red ties. 

A West Indian band delighted us one night 
to more, and ever more, encores . . . and 
their instruments ? All home-made, one 
from a cigar-box, one from a tin tobacco 
box. one from a tin basin, and one of the 
flute variety from a piece of thin metal 
tubing. 

The programmes usually assure us that an 
" egg-proof curtain will be lowered repeatedly 
during the performance. The artistes believe 
that prevention is better than cure." We are 
often respectfully asked, too, to keep our 
seats and " maintain a sympathetic silence 
until the conclusion of the performance. 
Several doctors are included in the audience." 

" The Management," said one notice, " has 
arranged for the provision of beds in the 
158 



OUR CONCERTS 

Medical Hut for any members of the audience 
who contract sleeping sickness. 

Wigs by Jove ! 
Songs by the way. 
Costumes by inspection of the Censor. 
Jewellery by the Sixpence-ha'penny 
Bazaar. 

Entr'acte Descendez au bar." 

The programmes are cheerily informal 
affairs with a lack of big type that would 
send a leading lady or an actor manager into 
a fit of apoplexy. 

Here is a typical one : 

PART I 

1. We commence. 

2. Smith asks Romeo for a row. 

3. Brown wants to sing so let him. 

4. Jones bursts into song. 

The audience will probably burst into 
tears. 

5. Robinson will oblige. 

6. Smithson insists and won't be kept back. 

7. Sketch Some lorry inspection. 

[It was.] 
159 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

PART II 

1. Robinson with a smile and a kit bag. 

2. The Animated Forceps throws things 

about, including himself. 

3. Encore Smith. 

4. Jones tours an old-fashioned town. 

5. Brown gives a pathetic recitation about 

four " C.O." sparking plugs. 

6. Smithson refuses to wait any longer. 

7. We must be patriotic to conclude. 

* * * 

The " advertisements " give playful little 
digs at all and sundry. The sergeant in 
charge of the clothing stores finds he has a 
space wherein he is described as 

" Dealer in cast-off clothing. 

Old boots collected. 

Get a chit." 

Harrison and Williamson, who happen to 
have had a good deal of night work with 
transport, are described in another square as 



" FURNITURE REMOVERS 
The Moonlighters' Friends.' 



160 



OUR CONCERTS 

The Railway Transport Section are, in 
another space, made into a Limited Liability 
Company who are 

" TOURIST AGENTS 
Tours arranged to the British Isles." 

One announcement which the boys much 
appreciated, for they have a great taste, 
if I may say so, for alcoholic jokes is : 

" Rye and Barley's Whiskey. 

TRY ONE. 
TRY ANOTHER. 

TRY ANOTHER. 

TRY ANOTHER. 

Feel better, what ? " 

This, for some reason or other, sent the 
boys into paroxysms of laughter. The mas- 
culine sense of humour is, at times, a little 
puzzling. 



161 



CHAPTER XVI 

ENGLISH AS SHE IS SPOKEN 
WITH THE B.E.F. 

" APRES la guerre finit, apres la guerre 
napoo," he softly sang, laboriously scratch- 
ing away at the black box which had con- 
tained the gift chocolate from the West 
Indian Colonies. He was removing the paint 
with a pin, thus showing the tin beneath, and 
forming a design of his Oxford and Bucks 
badge and the R.A.M.C. twisted serpent. 
Engraving these boxes had very much of a 
vogue in our wards at the time, and some 
beautifully artistic effects had been the 
result. 

" Have a dekko, draftie. Tres bon, isn't 
it ? This one is for sister as a souvenir. 
The first one I did I'm going to send to 
Blighty for the youngsters. But it'll have 
to wait until I go out of hospital. All my 
162 



ENGLISH AS SHE IS SPOKEN 

pay-days have gone West since I've been 
here swinging the lead. Alley, toot swee," 
he continues clearing the table as I come 
through the tunnel with the medicine basket, 
" line up for the rum ration, boys. Runner, 
sister ? " 

" Please." 

"' 'Ere yare, matey, bonne sante, bonne 
annee, bonne nuit," as he offers the first 
dose. 

" Merci boaco, merci cocoa," elegantly 
retorts the recipient. 

" Ser nay fair reang," with a shrug, not to 
be outdone in politeness nor in knowledge 
of the French language. " Taffy's getting 
the wind up, sister, when he sees you laying 
hands on the saucy sal," otherwise the sodii 
sal. 

" Buck up and drink it. Bon for the 
troops," Taffy is urged. " You're too slow 
to catch cold. If you want to linger longer 
in quaffing the cup, go to a hestaminay. Oh, 
sister," in terrible reproach, " I thought you 
might forget me if I was runner. It's awful 
tasting stuff, sister, no bon, no bon," "no 
bloomin' bon ' is his superlative phrase which 

163 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

he applies catholically to a cabinet minister 
of supposed ineptitude, a medical officer 
sparing of Blighty tickets, a non-picture hand 
at whist, or a suet pudding. 

" Ah ! that's the stuff to give 'em, sister. 
Come on, sergeant," he invites, handing over 
some acid tonic and breaking into a minor 
key : 

" // the sergeant drinks your rum, 

Never mind, nev-er mind, 
If the sergeant drinks your rum, 
Nev-ver mind, 
He's entitled to a tot, 
But not the bally lot, 
(Still) If the sergeant drinks your rum, 
Never mind, 

Nev-ver mi-ind." 

" Oh, stow yer 'ymn o' 'ate," urges the 
sergeant. 

" Shall I give you a hand till the orderly 
comes, sister ? I'm very handy at bed- 
making really. As a matter of fact I'm 
quite an all-round handy person make a 
good wife for somebody. Now, laddie," as 
we tug up the mattress, "up you go . . . 
164 



ENGLISH AS SHE IS SPOKEN /] 

and the best of luck," for he cannot refrain 
from finishing the tag. " Mercy, kamerad," 
he suggests as the patient lifts his arms out 
of the way of the bedclothes. Then, as his 
head goes rather near the chart board, " Haud 
yer 'eed doon, monn," another tag which he 
hurls at people dipping under the eaves of 
the tent, or under the tunnel between the 
marquees or into the annexe and which 
one day he explained. 

" You know, sister, we were once in the 
trenches with some Jocks on our left, and all 
day long it was, ' Haud yer 'eed doon, monn, 
the's a sneeper aboot," a phrase which 
must be spoken aloud rather quickly, and in 
broad Scotch to be thoroughly appreciated. 

" Nahpoo," he sadly overworks all day long. 
" Nahpoo," he says gazing on his hand at 
nap. "Nahpoo the possy," he comments, 
peeping into the jam tin. " Nah-poo the 
bergoo," he remarks as he disposes of the last 
spoonful of breakfast porridge. " Nahpoo 
the Allemang, nahpoo the bully beef," he 
cheerfully and confidently sings as he plays 
with his picture puzzle. " Garn, stow it," 
he would have said at one time to the teller 

165 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

of a tall story. " Nah poo," he now growls 
scornfully and disgustedly, and in moments 
of additional stress " Nah-poo, fini." 

" I believe there's a war on " and " before 
peace is declared," are two of his pet phrases. 
" I believe there's a war on, sister," he 
hazards, on first sipping the tea made to 
hospital standards, and not to his mother's 
60-horse-power, brewed strong enough to 
" make the spoon stand upright." 

" For the duration " is another favourite 
phrase. If m'mslle at the estaminet were 
tardy, he would certainly ask her if she 
thought he were there " for the duration." 
If his partner at draughts took what he con- 
sidered to be too long in thinking out the 
next move, he would inform the assembly 
that they were presumably both there u for 
the duration." 

" I clicked for beds and sister's told me 
off now," I hear him informing the orderly. 
" I'll cut the bread if you like. I seem to be 
the onion this afternoon." 

" You the onion ! " laughs the orderly. " I 
like that, don't come it over me with that yarn. 
It's gassed, sonny, gassed. It's tanked." 
166 



ENGLISH AS SHE IS SPOKEN 

" Um, but you won't say that when I've 
cut up umteen loaves, eh ? ' r 

" Oh ! carry on. It will keep you out of 
mischief. So double up to it." 

" That's a dud," he remarks, when he finds 
the first tin of butter empty. Then " where 
are these tins dumped ? Jr He never by any 
chance throws anything away. He always 
"dumps" it. 

Finally he seats himself and brandishes a 
knife gaily. 

" What did you do in the Great War, 
daddy ? Dodged Fritz & Co., my boy, 
slunk about hospital, swinging the lead, 
cutting up the rooty, ladelling out the stingo, 
handing out the possy and the doolay. 
Isn't that a record for an old sweat ? Aah, 
I'm afraid I'm a wash-out, a sinful old 
perisher. What do you say, rookie ? " ad- 
dressing a young recruit. " You want a 
backshee coat ? Hello ! I didn't know you 
were in the Labour Battalion ? Ten-shun, 
slope wheelbarrows." 

" What is sister doing ? " as I stumble 
over the mat. " Oh, sister, you're not trying 
to work your tickets, are you ? " " Work- 

167 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

ing England tickets " consists of " scrim- 
shanking," malingering, or courting disaster 
purposely. 

" Don't you think I'm useful, sister ? I 
think apres la guerre those in this ward ought 
to run a boarding house. I could be kitchen 
maid and waiter, ' Lightning ' could dust 
and sweep, the orderly could do all the rough 
work special emphasis on the ' work,' and 
loud pedal on the ' rough ' and Rookie 
could be the messenger boy." 

" And I'd make the beds." 

" Oh, no, sister, you'd be the lady with 
the frizzed hair that takes the money." 

I make assurance that I am overwhelmed by 
such a symbol of trust as the guardianship of 
the money, and I laughingly betake myself into 
the next ward where some work awaits me. 

I hear him pattering round " handing out 
the rooty and the possy, the stingo and the 
doolay," and promising some one a nissue 
otherwise a ration cigarette. Then when 
everything is ready I hear him subside into 
a deck chair, where I can imagine him at his 
ease remarking, " Now, boys, let's get on with 
the war," or " Nah, then, wot abaht it ? " 
168 



CHAPTER XVII 
SOME OF MY BOYS 

HE was a Greek god with a baritone voice 
and he came " fra 5 Oadam," more usually 
known as Oldham. He knew more parodies 
of songs than I had ever known existed, and 
all day long except at meal times we had 
such ditties as " My little gray home in the 
Trench." " A little bit Jack Johnson fell from 
out the sky one day," and " Nahpoo the 
Allemang, nahpoo the Bully Beef," the latter 
being, I think, scarcely a drawing-room song, 
for I have never been able to persuade any 
one to sing it me in its entirety. 

He had a slight muscular trouble in his 
left shoulder, and was sent to us for a few 
days from a casualty clearing station en route 
for a rest camp, and to revert to his base. 
Of course he was up and about all day, and 
his great feat was carrying round for me the 

169 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

medicine basket to each tent, and standing 
by as I administered each dose. 

Needless to say, remarks trickled forth 
subconsciously. " Now, draftie, down with 
the drink." " A drop of port for you, 
sonny," as I poured out the ferri and amm. 
cit. " Wake up, me lad, here's your rum 
ration. Look how he springs to attention at 
the mention of ' rum,' sister. One of your 
tender years ought to sign the pledge. Give 
this one an extra dose, sister, to get even 
with him. He's a policeman in civvy life. 
Ugh ! " reading his diet sheet " chicken, 
beef tea, eggs, jelly. Isn't this a policeman's 
holiday?" 

"Kelly, sister? What! the one from 
the Isle of Man ? Here he is, and next to 
him there's Douglas. Upon my word, now, 
isn't that a cute arrangement ? A mustard 
plaster, sister," handing me the tin and 
breaking into melodramatic accents and a 
verse of " Little Jim," " I feel no pain, 
dear mother, now. Are we down-hearted ? 
No, but he jolly soon will be when that 
plaster begins to bite." 

" A wee doech and doris," as I pour out 
170 



SOME OF MY BOYS 

some sodii sal. " Hoch, hoots, mon Jock. 
Ah cood fair greet tae see sae bonny a drap 
feending sae feckless a haame. Ferri. phos., 
sister, is that to give this man an appetite ? 
Why, he could eat anything, he could eat a 
flock bed. 

" Sorry, sister, I'm afraid I talk too much," 
looking at me and hoping for a disclaimer. 

" Do I ? " 

* * * 

" Old Dads," as the men called him, was a 
member of the " Greybeards' Battalion," 
and when in the forest cutting trees for trench 
supports he had injured his hand an acci- 
dent which brought him to my acquaintance. 

At first the sisters' presence in the wards 
embarrassed his sense of the fitness of things, 
and our social rank seemed somewhat of a 
puzzle to him. On occasion he put finger 
to forelock, and addressed us as " Mum," 
" Ma'am " and " Me lady," at other times it 
was " Yes, sir " and at others " Miss " in 
tones reminiscent of a customer to a waitress 
at a cheap restaurant. Finally he managed 
with great difficulty to learn the usual form 
of address. 

171 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

He was infinitely grateful for what we did 
for him, and had a habit of talking under his 
breath while we did his dressing which was 
both amusing and disconcerting. 

" You are good ter me. God knows you 
are. You are kind ter me. The Lord knows 
you are. I'm better looked after here than 
I've ever been in my life. I'm sure I am. I 
never knew there was so much kindness in 
the world. I'm sure I didn't. You 'ave ter 
work 'ard. I'm sure you 'ave. I wouldn't 
like a daughter of mine to after do it." 

Whether he considered the work beneath 
the dignity of his daughter or whether he 
wished to spare her its excesses, I was never 
quite sure. More probably the latter, for he 
was a thoughtful and kind old man. 

The last I saw of him was as he was being 
carried out on a stretcher to proceed to 
England a recumbent figure swathed like a 
Polar explorer in great coat and scarves and 
a Balaclava, and still he was muttering 
" They have been good ter me. I'm sure 
they have. They were kind ter me. The 
Lord knows they were." 



172 



SOME OF MY BOYS 

" Sonny " was not quite seventeen years 
old, military age nineteen. He was a tall 
silp of a youth with a nature as bright as a 
June day, and eyes as blue as its skies. He 
came into hospital with tonsilitis, and he was 
up and about in a day or two, following me 
round like a little dog. 

" Sister, can't I carry that for you ? 
Sister, mayn't I cut those lemons ? Sister, 
I'm a good sewer. Can't I stitch that 
curtain ? Let me thread your needles." 

He told me much of his home affairs, and 
also of his disgust at getting so near to things, 
and yet not being sent into the trenches. 

" You see, sister, people at home will say 
I'm a coward if I don't go up the line. I 
want to go up after a V.C., I haven't any one 
special at home to think about. I have no 
father or mother, only a sister and she's 
married. Her husband is one of the best, 
but they have two kiddies, and I'm not 
necessary to them or to any one, so it wouldn't 
matter if I went West. It's chaps like me 
that can be spared. We're the sort that 
ought to get knocked out. 

" My sister sends me a parcel every fort- 

173 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

night, and she always sends my favourite 
supper-dish, a tin of pineapple and a tin of 
condensed milk. Have you tried it, sister ? 
It's luscious, tray bon, trez beans. Do have 
it for your supper, sister. You would like 
it." 

Repartee and jokes were his forte. 

" What are you doing in a regiment like 
the Buffs ? " some older patient asked him. 

" The Buffs, my boy ? " Sonny retorted. 
" Because they are the Best Unit For Foreign 
Service. See ? " 

One day he came to me and inquired, 
" Are you fond of music, sister ? " 

" Why, of course," I replied. 

" Then here's a whole band for you, 
sister," volunteered the young scapegrace, 
holding out the small rubber band from the 
mouth of a soda-water-bottle. 

I laughed as I went on with my work. 

" Quite right of you not to accept, sister. 
It's not worthy of you," moving it round in 
his fingers, and disclosing the fact that it 
was split across. " It's only a broken 
melody." 



174 



SOME OF MY BOYS 

" Pewcy " the other boys called him, 
though that was not the N. or M. given to him 
in his baptism. " A regular entertainment 
he is," said a Kiplingesque soldier, " a fair 
Daisy," a criticism begot by the fact that 
Pewcy talked in italics. He used the latest 
slang, he brushed his hair an alarming number 
of times a day. He used to say " Excuse 
me," "Allow me," "Will you please?" 
and " Do you mind ? '' In a word, Pewcy 
was genteel, and gentility is the one thing at 
a discount on the Western Front. 

The other men laughed at and made a 
great butt of him, and one of them used to 
imitate how Pewcy would say in the trenches, 
" There's a beastly Boche, haw. What shall 
I do, haw ? Shall I kill him or shall I smack 
his beastly face, haw ? " 

Poor Pewcy ! When the July push came 
his regiment " went over," and he was one 
who proved himself a soldier and a man. 



" Canada " had been blanket bathed, and 
duly installed in bed before I had had time 
to give him more than the briefest attention. 

175 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

Then, however, I went to see if he was warm 
and comfortable. 

" Comfortable, sister," with a blissful sigh 
of contentment. " I've never slept between 
sheets for four years," a circumstance which 
I asked him to explain. 

He had been in Canada three years before 
war broke out, had " had it pretty rough," 
had been fur- trapping three hundred and 
ninety miles north of the Hudson Bay. On 
the outbreak of war he had come south, and 
joined the army without having a night in 
an hotel, so one could quite understand how 
he and sheets had been strangers for so long. 

He came at a time when we were having a 
short-lived lull, and I had time to listen and 
to beguile him to talk of his trails, his shacks, 
the habits of the bear, the wolf, the lynx 
and the sable. He used to tell me of a snow- 
clad earth, a racing dog sleigh, the cold 
pinge of an atmosphere fifty or sixty degrees 
below zero, until I imagined it was a book of 
Jack London's to which I was listening. 

Then, unfortunately, the lull came to an 
end. Convoys were arriving, beds were 
wanted, " Canada " would take longer to get 
176 



SOME OF MY BOYS 

well than A.S. conditions can deal with, so 

he was regretfully evacuated to England. 
* * * 

He came from the Midlands, and described 
every one as a " card." Certainly he himself 
was a " card." He was transferred to the 
surgical hut from a marquee via the operat- 
ing theatre and was placed on the bed, a 
limp figure reeking of chloroform. A few 
minutes later he had shot up in bed, and 
astounded us all by demanding in a loud 
voice, " Who's swinging the lead ? " this 
evidently prompted by the remark of a 
passing orderly. 

" Here, lie down, colonel," said this same 
orderly, helping to suit the action to the word 
with considerable dispatch, for the patient 
had a head wound. 

" I'm not a colonel, I'm a full-blown 
private." 

" All right. Lie down, full-blown private." 

Quietude for a while as he gazed round. 
Then, for he had been transferred to a ward 
where we had all the head cases " I'm in 
the wrong dug-out. Who brought me here ? 
I want to go to the other dug-out for my 

M 177 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

tabs. I left two hundred tabs there. Can't 
I go, sister ? " 

His memory for a few days was rather 
uncertain, and one of his idiosyncrasies was 
to affirm that he had had nothing to eat. 
One afternoon he was telling me he was 
" starved," and I said " Oh, come, now, 
surely not. Tell me what you have had to- 
day." 

" Well, I've had my temperature and my 
pulse, some medicine and a pill, a bath and 
my bed made, and a needle in my arm. But 
that's all." 

I admitted that it certainly wasn't a very 
satisfying diet, but since I had personally 
fed him at dinner time with a large plateful 
of minced chicken, mashed potatoes, and 
bread, followed by two plentiful helpings 
of delicious custard pudding, I really did 
not feel unduly anxious about any dietetic 
deficiencies. 

After a few days he got along in truly 
marvellous fashion, and to our inquiries was 
always " A.I at Lloyds, sister," " Splendid, 
I'm only swinging it now. I'll be able to 
put off my turban " his head bandages 
178 



SOME OF MY BOYS 

" indoors very shortly, shan't I, sister ? " 
He " chipped " the other men ceaselessly, 
and soon was in such good form that, to our 
loss and his delight, he was whisked off to 

Blighty. 

* * * 

There are lots and lots of other boys, too, 
whom it is a pleasure to remember. 

" Ike " he had somewhat of an out-size 
in noses -was a delightful man, just a 
common every- day sort of Tommy, with no 
" birth," little education, and, on the surface, 
nothing particularly attractive about him. 
Yet there was something extremely likeable 
in his nature. I suppose it was " jest his 
way." 

There was a boy, too, who hailed from 
" Noo Yark," and who guessed he wasna 
goinga stay outa precious scrap like this, 
especially if he could help a Britisher and do 
down a durned German. The dressing tray 
he alluded to as " this dope," and the Medical 
Officer as " the quack." He used to talk of 
handing people the lemon, and one night 
when he had toothache, he expatiated on 
the virtues of a dandy dentist of his down 

179 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

Pittsburg way. A man he suspected of 
swinging the lead he referred to as a great 
husky guy, and the Blighty cases he spoke 
of as the men who were recommended for 
shipment to England. 

" Call 'em live freight and be done with it, 
Yank," the other boys suggested. 

There was an acute gastritis boy, too, one 
who was so ill he could not take the bananas 
I was handing round to all the other patients, 
so as I passed his bed I dropped a half-blown 
rose on his pillow. 

" Oh, sister, it reminds me of home and 
my garden," and he picked it up and kissed 
it a pathetic little action I pretended not 
to see. 

Then again there was " Chikko " as the 
men dubbed him aged seventeen, who 
laughed his way through life, and who 
refused to cure himself of the excellent habit 
even if there was a silly old war going on. 
" Wings :; was in the " Royal Flying Corpse, 
sister. I hope you'll always keep a bed 
ready for me here, as I'm sure to drop in 
one night, accent on the ' drop.' Possibly 
I'll come through the roof of the sisters' 
180 



SOME OF MY BOYS 

mess, and won't there be a mess ! Pardon, 
sister." 

Excellent boys all of them. It has been an 
education and a pleasure to know them, and 
to work among them. 



181 



CHAPTER XVIII 
ACTIVE SERVICE IN THE RAIN 

THE morning dawned bright and warm, so 
warm that the up-patients took out their 
chairs and sat on the grass which does duty 
as lawn, while the tent walls were rolled 
back for the benefit and pleasure of the bed 
patients. 

The sun was so ingratiating that it wooed 
one or two boys into doing " a bit o' weed- 
ing " in our " garden," and into transplanting 
some horticultural specimens, so anaemic and 
so badly suffering from debility that their 
genus could not be determined. " And good 
transplanting weather, too," prophesied the 
rheumatic patients. " We shall have rain 
before the day is out." 

About noon the rain comes, sending us 
all on duty after lunch, fully armed against 
its torrential attentions two pairs of stock- 
182 



ACTIVE SERVICE IN THE RAIN 

ings, gum boots, shortest dress, belted mack- 
intosh, together with sou'wester in place of, 
or over, our cap, since diving in and out 
of dripping tents soon gives one's stiff est, 
starchiest cap the appearance of a time-worn 
dish rag, added to which is the obvious 
danger of achieving a portentous cold. 

One goes on the rounds with a medicine 
basket filled with half-a-dozen bottles, a 
couple of medicine glasses, towel, and small 
rinsing bowl. No sooner does one leave the 
tent than a particularly spiteful gust of wind 
comes, raises one's mackintosh like a balloon, 
and flaps the towel which has hitherto been 
folded, but is now rebellious with stinging 
lashes on one's hand, the rain pinging on 
one's face with seemingly delightful venom. 

One struggles along and nearly tumbles 
into each tent, the wind is so typically March. 
Then another round is made with mouth- 
washes, gargles, and inhalations, the while 
one gets nicely soaked dipping under the 
tent eaves, and has rivulets running off one's 
sou'wester and down one's back. Next fol- 
lows the round for straightening, and possibly 
remaking beds, with the consequent stripping 

183 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

of the mackintosh and, perhaps, sou'wester 
in each tent. Meantime the rain has gained 
in vigour and persistence, so much so, that 
it finds out the faulty parts in the tent roof 
and walls. 

The orderly is called, and together we go 
round seeing to the closing of those venti- 
lators which are allowing the rain to enter, 
placing bowls to catch innocuous drippings, 
pulling forward beds out of harm's and the 
rain's way. 

Teatime comes, and so does the ward 
sergeant with " warnings " for the England 
cases " a quarter-of-an-hour, sister." One 
hurries from tent to tent, completes the 
filling-in of Blighty tickets, sees that the 
quite naturally excited travellers have had 
a plentiful tea, and that their kit is quite 
correct, hurries to the duty tent for a better 
scarf than the one with which a departing 
hero is contenting his happy self, bids good- 
bye all round, and splashes back to a tent, 
where an orderly has just reported four new 
admissions. 

Temperatures are taken, blanket baths 
set in progress. Then one wades back to 
184 



ACTIVE SERVICE IN THE RAIN 

the nursing quarters through a paddock pied 
with rain- spattered daisies, dripping cow- 
slips, and celandine. A gust of wind and 
rain considerably assist one's entry into the 
hut containing our bunks. 

One throws off sou'wester and mackintosh, 
draws off gum boots, and attempts to remove, 
at least, a small portion of the thick clayey 
mud with which they are richly encrusted. 
Then comes a change of stockings and dress, 
leaving the other woefully bedraggled skirt 
spread out to dry over one's camp bath, 
and enviously commending the forethought 
of the wise virgin who has had an over- 
skirt made from a ground sheet. Then off 
to the mess room for a much appreciated 
cup of tea before going back to duty. 

Here trouble meets us at the outset, for 
a particularly energetic gust of wind has 
blown down the duty tent, and we find an 
orderly and a medical officer crawling under 
the flapping tarpaulin preparatory to right- 
ing matters. The pole is soon hoisted, and 
while great execution is being done with a 
tent mallet, every human being in sight 
begins chasing after the diet-sheets, tempera- 

185 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

ture charts, Blighty tickets, and laboratory 
slips which, presumably glad to escape from 
the privacy of the duty tent, are rioting 
giddily overhead. A tantalising chase it is, 
for many of the papers settle just long 
enough for us to almost reach them before 
whirling waywardly up, and successfully out 
of reach again. 

A return to the duty tent shows us, oh ! 
what a fall was there. We look round, and 
" I would that my tongue could utter the 
thoughts that arise in me." Inhalers and 
measures have been broken, medicine bottles 
overturned and smashed, the medicine cup- 
board has suffered in the encounter and has 
disgorged much of its crowded contents, so 
that on the floor in an unsavoury-looking 
stream of tincture of iodine, tine. benz. co., 
methyl sal., and mist, alba., are to be found 
one-grain tablets of calomel, No. 9 pills, 
No. 13 pills, A.P.C. powders, soda bicarb, 
tablets, and similar little delicacies. 

A comparative degree of order being 
restored in a superlative degree of haste, 
the marquees are once more visited. Ground 
sheets are pulled across the doors of the 
186 



ACTIVE SERVICE IN THE RAIN 

tent, the lights are lighted, gramophones 
tinkle. Darkness has come, the planks laid 
between the tents to serve as footpaths 
become sodden, and hurrying feet occasion- 
ally skid and sideslip on them. 

Once something furry scuttles by within 
an inch of one's toe, and one has visual 
example of the familiar expression, " a half- 
drowned rat." Another round of the tents 
with gargles, inhalations, and medicines, and 
then an hour's work with beds. This up- 
patient has not noticed that the rain has 
been falling on his pillow. The position of 
his bed is altered, and a new pillow obtained. 
Drippings have been falling on the over- 
turned portion of sheet on another bed, so 
that must be remade in part, and a clean, 
dry sheet substituted. Another bed has 
had its counterpane slightly splashed, but 
a folded towel inserted between it and 
the blanket meets every possibility of 
danger. 

And so on we go until we are assured that 
every patient is warm, dry, and comfortable, 
and likely to remain so. 

" A dirty night for you, sister," the boys 

189 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

remark as we scramble into trench-coat and 
sou'wester. 

But we have grown quite philosophical 
and stoical about the weather, besides isn't 
rain good for the complexion ? And one 
day, I suppose, we shall remember we once 
possessed a complexion and will want to 
regain it, in those far-off coming days apres 
la guerre. 



190 



CHAPTER XIX 
SOUNDS OF HOSPITAL LIFE 

OF course it would be comme il faut and 
according to tradition to say that the sound 
that reached one's waking ears was the 
crowing of the cock, but, primarily, I am 
a truth-at-any-price person, and, secondarily 
no, primarily, again I am of the dormouse 
variety. 

Thus, it takes a heavily footed batman 
with big army boots to parade the hut 
several times and splash relays of water 
into several waiting jugs before my sleepy 
ears are assaulted. Then, indeed, I do hear 
the cock crow, for in the nursing quarters 
we possess two spoiled darlings of bantams, 
Christopher and Emma, and Christopher is 
very vociferous, very lusty in the lung. 

A hurried douche and dressing, with sundry 
scufflings in adjacent bunks, reminding one 

191 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

of the sound of so many horses tossing in 
loose boxes, then comes the mess bell. 
Breakfast and then another bell, for our 
staff is so large that a later breakfast had 
to be instituted for " two-stripers," a con- 
cessionary half-hour which has led sleepy 
V.A.D.s to wish they had had the perspi- 
cacity to make a profession of nursing. 

In the wards in the early morning one 
loses the sense of sound of outside things, 
but when temperatures are taken, medicines 
given, beds made and tent walls rolled back, 
one becomes conscious of " Lef . . . wheel," 
" Eye . . . srite," " Form foss," and the 
dull thud of marching feet. 

Bang, bang . . . snap, snap, snap . . . 
spit, spit, from up the Bull-ring way, con- 
tinues so evenly one loses the realisation of 
it. The medical officer, gargles, inhalations, 
foments and special medicines close one's 
ears until the clatter of crockery warns one 
for " Come to the cook-house door, boys. 
Come to the cook-house door." We hurry 
to cut thin bread and butter for a patient 
who would like " something to help down 
the milk," to get toast snippets for another 
192 



SOUNDS OF HOSPITAL LIFE 

to coax down some beef-tea, and to see that 
certain special diets are duly administered. 

In the afternoon " another letter from 
Martha, another letter from home," urges 
one or two boy-blues to put on their long 
overcoats invariably to be greeted with 
" Chelsea pensioner " and go for the mail. 
" Let's get out the gramophone and have a 
tune," suggests one of the boys. 

What a boon gramophones are ! as great 
a boon as that of card games. We are 
eternally grateful to the French king for 
whose benefit the card game was originated, 
and we equally bless the inventor of the 
gramophone. 

Our gramophones suffer from the common 
complaint of most people and things on 
active service they are sadly overworked. 
So much so that after a few very crowded 
hours of glorious fame they grow capricious, 
wilful, and finally stubborn. 

But the boys are capable of marvellous 
achievements in the way of repairs. Once 
the spring of the gramophone broke I need 
scarcely use the word " once," for this is 
a most frequent accident. On this particular 

N 193 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

occasion, however, I was rather distressed 
about the occurrence, for the gramophone 
was borrowed, and to acquire another spring 
takes much persuasion, a wait of three or 
four weeks, and, incidentally, twenty or so 
francs. The boys assured me it would prob- 
ably be very easily mended, and I left the 
matter so. 

Returning later to the marquee, I was 
horrified. A couple of newspapers were 
spread over the table, and, apparently, a 
kind of engineer's bench was strewn all 
over the papers. 

Every screw in the gramophone which 
would unscrew was unscrewed. Every pin 
that would come away had come away. 
Every fitted part that would undo was 
undone. Practically every patient had his 
finger or, worse still, his ten fingers in 
the melange, while the two bed patients at 
either side of the table were tendering much 
unwanted and disregarded advice, and soiling 
the sheets by their examination of loose nuts. 

Then, cook-house bugle sounded, and they 
gathered up the scattered fragments and 
wrapped them in the newspapers. 
194 



SOUNDS OF HOSPITAL LIFE 

Tea presumably refreshed and strengthened 
them from the fray, for after tea they got 
the spring from its casing and put it in the 
fire. Then they brought it out and hit it 
with a tent mallet, and the spring recoiled 
and hit one of them. They broke a pair of 
scissors and a jack-knife, bent a tin-opener 
and a bed-key, utilised the end of a milk 
tin, some string, and a bent safety-pin 
but they mended the gramophone. 

The men quite often whistle and hum to 
the tune of the gramophone, and sometimes 
they sing and harmonise so sweetly. Once 
they did so to the music of a mouth- 
organ ! Now I had always been trained to 
a great aloofness and something of an in- 
tolerance with respect to the mouth-organ. 
But, it seems, there are mouth-organs and 
mouth-organs. This one was evidently of 
the and variety. 

For a time I was amused at the rapt 
expression, the absorbed air, and twisted 
features of the player, as with head so much 
on one side as to be almost parallel with his 
shoulder he passionately exhorted the instru- 
ment to sound. 

195 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

Then from one tune to another, he drifted 
into " Home, Sweet Home." One boy began 
to whistle very softly. Then another, and 
another, until all joined in verse and refrain, 
verse and refrain. 

I was quietly rubbing a patient, and not 
an alien sound was to be heard in the ward. 
The last note died away, melancholy and 
lingering, and for quite a minute no sound 
was made. 

Then we all looked at one another, some 
one laughed, and we all joined. There are 
occasions in life when it is wise to laugh. 



196 



CHAPTER XX 
MORE FROM MY DIARY 

TOMMY is a sentimental cuss. A certain 
nurse took a bunch of forget-me-nots down 
to the ward yesterday morning, and last 
night, in rather mystified tones, remarked 
that it seemed very depleted. A huge grin 
from one end of the marquee to the other ! 
Then confession. 

Practically every man had taken a spray 
of forget-me-nots to enclose in a letter to 
his " girl." Some of the little flowers had 
gone to Australia, some to California, some 
to Winnipeg, some to South Africa, and 
some to the British Isles and some of 
the " girls " had been married twenty 
years ! 

Yes, Tommy is a sentimental cuss, and 
surely we nurses are worse. For didn't 
that selfsame sister make a special visit to 

197 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

the market to buy another relay of forget-me- 
nots for the boys in the other tents ! 
* * * 

Quite an exciting time this afternoon. 
Another nurse and I were washing our hands 
in the duty tent, when we heard the fire 
alarm, and looking out saw the wall and 
roof of a marquee in adjacent lines on fire. 
We cleared the tent ropes at a bound, and 
raced off calling to the orderlies to bring fire 
extinguishers and fire buckets. 

Several men were already throwing on 
water and using extinguishers, and we two 
helped the sisters get the patients out of that 
tent and one very near to it. It was rather 
weird hearing the crackling and sizzling 
overhead as we worked. 

As ill-luck would have it, the cases were all 
surgical, several with back, chest, and lower 
limb injuries. Those who could hobble were 
taken out wrapped in a blanket, the others 
were carried out in bed, and I don't remember 
one of them feeling heavy. 

The orderlies soon had the fire under, and 
no one was any the worse except for a 
drenched tunic or a bedraggled cap. What 
198 



MORE FROM MY DIARY 

lent celerity to our actions was the knowledge 
that a marquee can burn down in three or 
four minutes. 

When I returned to duty, a new tent roof 
and sides had been put up, the ward cleaned, 

and no trace left of the fire. Quick work. 

* * * 

To-day I went into a ward expecting to 
find some freshly-made tea for one of my 
sick boys. Instead, I found the tea boiling 
industriously on top of a red hot stove after 
having been brewed a quarter-of-an-hour. 

" It's my fault, sister," volunteered one 
boy. " I told them it was time to make it, 
but I have since discovered my watch was 
ten minutes fast," holding out a very active- 
service watch with cracked glass, and quite 
an accumulation of dirt on the dial. " If 
my watch wasn't in such a delicate state," 
continued the unabashed culprit, " I'd knock 
its wretched face off for being so fast and 

forward." 

* * * 

The Australian sisters asked the remainder 
of our nursing staff to coffee last night, it 
being Anzac night. Some bright individual 

199 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

suggested our dressing for the event in fancy 
dress, and we all took up the idea with gusto. 
Why ? Because, having to work hard, we 
like to play hard, too, and we so rarely get 
the latter opportunity. Besides, most people, 
especially when they occur in numbers, 
rarely outlive the childish love of " dressing 
up." 

So some of the girls put on their kimonos 
and came as Japanese ladies, and one put 
on her mackintosh, sou'wester and puttees, 
and called herself a back-to-the-land young 
Amazon. Another draped her " wardrobe " 
curtain of spriggled muslin around her in 
pannier fashion, wore a white blouse, and 
tied a ribbon round her summer hat and came 
as a shepherdess. She looked delightfully 
pretty. 

One found an overcoat and a concertina 
in the Red Cross stores, and came as an 
itinerant musician, and when we heard her 
samples of music, we were glad she was 
itinerant, and didn't mind how soon, nor 
how far, nor how long, the itinerary was. 

Another came as a " Blighty case " in 
khaki mackintosh, khaki scarf muffled to the 
200 



MORE FROM MY DIARY 

ears, " dinkum Aussy " hat, and feet and 
legs swathed in bandages and encased in 
immense trench slippers. She had the usual 
two " Blighty tickets " appended, duly filled 
in, and with the information that 5,000,000 
units A.T.S. (anti-toxin-serum) had been 
given ! 

One martyr had draped her brown army 
blanket around her, and done entangling 
feats with her hair and ruinous things with 
her complexion to represent herself as an 
Indian squaw. Others wore Australian hats, 
loose blouses and ties, and V.A.D. skirts as 
bush girls, thus paying compliment to our 
hostesses. 

After songs and games, drinking coffee and 
nibbling sandwiches, we gave cheers for all 
Australian nurses and all Australian boys, 
for whom some of us have such a partiality 
that we are accused of having the familiar 
complaint of " Australitis." 

And so to bed, as Pepys would say. The 
worst, however, of an Anzac night is that it 
is followed by an Anzac morning. As one 
girl said when the batman woke her at 
getting-up time, " I thought to myself ' Dear 

201 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

' ho] 
night. 



n. y .r.j. j.rx x 1 JCXJ^TN ^ n< 

me, I hope I'm not going to have a bad 

,irvV,f ' 



As many as possible of the nursing staff 
were asked to attend the funeral this after- 
noon of a V.A.D. 

When we arrived at the cemetery it was 
just in time to join the cortege. 

A cordon of R.A.M.C. lined the road, and 
down it passed the padre followed by the 
pipers wailing a dirge. Next came the coffin, 
a plain, unstained wooden one covered with 
the Union Jack. Then came the A.D.M.S., 
and some other staff officers, and then we 
nurses Q.A.I.M.N.S., Territorial, Reserve, 
St. J.A.A., and B.R.C. 

We grouped ourselves round the grave, 
and the padre read the address exquisitely 
and most impressively. It was a beautiful 
spring afternoon with a fleckless blue sky 
and floods of soft sunshine. A bird on a 
bough swayed up and down up and down, 
with a continual cheep-cheep, cheep-cheep. 
We all stood taut and still, at attention, and 
the words rolled magnificently to us. 

" Lord most holy, O God most mighty, O 
202 



MORE FROM MY DIARY 

holy and merciful Saviour, thou most worthy 
Judge eternal, suffer us not, at our last hour, 
for any pains of death, to fall from Thee." 

The Union Jack is folded and laid aside, 
the pageantry and the impressive dignity 
of the scene loses its grip on one. Instead 
there comes to mind a picture of the dead 
girl, white and still, with closed eyes and 
crossed hands. We hear the rattle of ropes, 
the coffin is lowered, the swaying bird becomes 
a blurred vision. A French peasant woman 
with a tiny bunch of half-faded violets is 
sobbing loudly. The grave faces of the 
English nurses grow a little more set. 

Then come the prayers, the Last Post 
poignant and haunting and the volley. 
Two French nurses drop into the grave a 
bunch of carnations, we take our flowers and 
lay them by the grave and turn to go back 
through the cemetery. 

No matter what consolation is proffered, 
death is always an irreparable loss. But 
surely it is better to have it come when doing 
work that counts, work of national and 
racial weight, than to live on until old and 
unwanted. 

203 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

And what a magnificent end to one's life, 
to lie there among those splendidly brave 
boys in the little strip of land which the 
French Government has given over in per- 
petuity to our dead. Thousands of the 
children that are to be, will come to such 
cemeteries, and will be hushed to reverence 
by the spirits of those who are not, by the 
spirits of the fallen that will for ever inhabit 
the scene. 

May eternal rest be given to the poor 
shattered body and glory eternal to the ever 

lasting spirit ! 

* * * 

Such a charming remark was made to me 
to-day. He was the shyest of patients, so 
gentle, quiet and retiring, and as I tucked 
him in somewhat silently, perhaps, for I 
had given up hopes of wooing him to talk 
he looked up at my St. John's Ambulance 
Brigade badge and said, " Sister, I know now 
what S.J.A.B. means. It stands for, ' She's 

just a brick.' " 

* * * 

A most interesting morning had a peep 
inside an Army Veterinary Camp. At that 
204 




A EUSOL FOOT-BATH 



MORE FROM MY DIARY 

end of the camp where we entered was a huge, 
rectangular tank, about twelve feet high, 
and with an inclined approach at one end 
and a descent at the other. The tank was 
rilled with medicated water, and horses 
suspected of skin diseases were driven up the 
ascent and into the tank, across which they 
were obliged to swim to the descent on the 
other side ; and the remarkable thing is 
that the horses are rarely refractory. 

Near by was a small pond, cement-lined 
and filled with medicated water. This was 
used as a foot-bath, and in it were tethered 
to a post some horses with foot injuries. 
After the foot-bath, each was to have a 
eusol dressing. 

Several slight surgical cases were in a 
compound. 

" We have good and bad patients just as 
you do," we were told. " This rascal persists 
in biting his bandage and disarranging the 
dressing. It will be guard-room for you, 
old chap, if you don't mend your ways." 

But the " old chap " took shamelessly 
little heed of the warning, and hobbled away 
off to a coterie of disabled friends, one with a 

207 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

huge bandage round the neck as though he 
were suffering from a sore throat, another 
with a huge swab and plaster on his nose, 
two others with ankle injuries, and a fifth 
evidently nearing convalescence. 

The more serious surgical cases were in 
stalls. Each had his medical chart giving 
the diagnosis and, occasionally, the tem- 
perature. The latter, of course, is more 
frequently charted and a more important 
matter in medical cases of, say, pneumonia 
or bronchitis. Several drainage tubes were 
to be seen in wounds, the treatment of which 
is very much on the same lines as the 
treatment of human wounds. 

The dispensary had its usual store of 
lotions, drugs, and medicines the latter two 
much in request from the numerous coughs, 
colds, and heart troubles which exposure 
and a harrowing life bring in their train. 

Near by was a rectangular piece of ground, 
cemented, covered with straw and ground- 
sheets, and with a pile of blankets. This was 
used as an operating table, and to it were 
brought the cases for operation. Hind and 
fore legs were tethered, and the patient was 
208 



MORE FROM MY DIARY 

pulled down, chloroformed, covered with a 
blanket, and the operation began. 

In an adjacent paddock, forty or so con- 
valescents were being exercised by grooms 
who kept them trotting in a circle, the 
laggards and " lead- swingers " being called 
to attention in a very firm, sergeant-major 
sort of tone that seemed to be more effectual 

than the cracking of the never-applied whip. 
* * * 

All those who have sampled the famous 
Maconochie stew will relish the flavour of a 
Scotchman's little joke cracked to-day in 
one of the wards. 

Said this Jock to a member of a certain 
Highland regiment, " But ye' no Scoatch, 
are ye ? " 

" 6 Well, my father was Scotch, my mother 
was Irish and I was born in Greece, so what 
would you call me ? '' 

Puff puff pu-u-ff. 

Jock removes his stubby pipe, glances 

sideways and snorts out, " Maaconochee." 
* * * 

" A bit of a tickler, that ! " gurgled out one 
of the boys when he was subsequently told. 

o 209 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

" Aye, jammy ! " was the apt reply. 

* * # 

The hard frost continues. This afternoon 
I was walking down the road when a convoy 
went out. The dust cloud raised by the cars 
from the dry, hard road was equal to that 
on a hot August day. 

What a picture the cars made ! All along 
the straight, tree-bordered road as far as the 
eye could see, was car after car, a long 
steady uninterrupted line of them, with no 
horse vehicle, and no pedestrians to break 
their uniformity. On and on they come in 
apparently never-ending succession, this car 
from a fleet of the White Rabbit, that from 
the Scottish Mobile Unit, that bearing the 
name of the " Laird of So-and-so," this 
"The Minnies," that "The Maudes," this 
an A.S.C. wagon from the Red Hand fleet, 
that from the fleet of the Black Star, this the 
gift of the Licensed Traders, that from the 
Scottish Textile Workers. The Red Cross 
ambulance cars go to prove we are a united 

nation. 

* * * 

Had a case of typhoid in one of the wards, 
210 



MORE FROM MY DIARY 

so several boys in that particular marquee 
are to be inoculated. One boy informed me 
that he didn't think it would be necessary 
in his case as it was only six months since he 
had been tattooed, and tattoing was as good 
as inoculation, wasn't it ? 

Quite a number of the boys hold this 
belief. This particular one rolled back his 
sleeve, and showed me a red heart shot 
through with a large, blue arrow the size of a 
respectable lead pencil. Underneath were 
written the words " Maggie, I love you." 

Such an unblushing parade of affection 
persuaded another man to show his arms, 
the one bearing the name " Elsie," and the 
other " Agnes," a situation which the other 
boys thought liable to be fraught with con- 
siderable danger. The possibility, however, 
of rivalry and jealousy was removed, when 
the man explained that they were the names 
of his two little daughters. 

A woman's head in a befeathered hat, and a 
girl's name, are favoured subjects for tattoo- 
ing, though the name, one fears, must place a 
terrible strain on the fidelity or the veracity 
of the gallant and impressionable martyr. 

211 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

A pantomime " principal boy " is another 
favoured device. So, too, are clasped hands, 
while a man who has seen service in India 
quite usually boasts a coiled snake on the arm 
and a most elaborate blue and red dragon 
with out-stretched wings unfurled across the 

chest. 

* * * 

Even yet, I'm not sure whether the follow- 
ing piece of sarcasm heard to-day was inten- 
tional or not. 

Two boys from the same town were talking 
of a home regiment. 

" Who is the Medical Officer with the 
Loamshires now ? " 

"Captain Medico." 

" Medico ! I went to school with him. 
You don't mean to say he's a doctor ! " 

" Yes, old son and with the Loamshires." 

" Great Scot ! He a doctor ! Why, man, 

he couldn't hurt a fly ! " 

* * * 

We had a thoroughly delightful and en- 
thrallingly interesting lecture to-night when 
the radiographer explained to us X-rays and 
the working thereof, and showed us many 
212 




AN OPERATION AT AN ARMY VETERINARY CAMP 



MORE FROM MY DIARY 

plates of cases we had nursed. Wish all the 
lectures were as interesting. 

To-day a guard was on duty in a " shell- 
shock " ward where was a patient who per- 
sisted in wanting to get out of bed. 

" Now be quiet, matey," he exhorted. 
" You must lie still, lie still, chum. No, you 
can't get up. Lie still, I say. If you don't 
lie still, I'll I'll ," the accents grew posi- 
tively threatening " I'll bring the other 
guard." 



215 



CHAPTER XXI 
WAR-TIME MARKETING 

" MA cherie, be an angel and do some mess 
shopping for me this morning, since you are 
going into town," pleads the Home Sister. 

I hesitate, for off-time has been none too 
generous of late. We are short-staffed and 
one's scanty leisure at any time is always 
pretty fully booked. So I hesitate. 

"It won't take long." I know it will 
take all the morning. " Besides, you know 
the business from A to Z," continues the 
voice of the arch-flatterer. " You will enjoy 
it. It is market day. There is an evacua- 
tion, and you'll get a good car to town. 
And you'll help me tremendously." 

When I leave the camp I don't take " a 
good car." It is a glorious, mild, spring- 
like morning a perfect morning, thoroughly 
to be enjoyed after a month's iron frost of 
216 



WAR-TIME MARKETING 

twenty to thirty degrees, a morning when, 
if I were in mufti, I should feel shabby and 
go and buy a new hat, and then straightway 
order a coat and skirt to correspond with 
it. 

However, the Army, excellent institution 
that it is, decides our fashions, and on 
April 1st I shall don a new hat, a straw one, 
and not until April 1st. Moreover, it is a 
very dull pastime buying a new hat precisely 
like its predecessor, so my ebullition of up- 
liftedness and light-heartedness finds an out- 
let in another way. Instead of decorously 
taking " a good car," I am mounted on a 
great lumbering motor-lorry, the seat at 
least six feet above the ground. Here I 
drink in great draughts of refreshing, sweet, 
pure air. 

The driver and I " talk shop," his shop, 
though ultimately it veers round to mine. 
After meeting cows, young bullocks, pigs, 
flocks of sheep, and several of the most 
antediluvian of country carts, all quaint 
enough to form the subject of an exquisite 
picture, we encounter a tiny band of Indians 
with their goats. At this we abandon the 

217 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

subject of self-starters for that of the manage- 
ment of traffic. 

" Of course, traffic is not so well regulated 
here as it is in England. Still, we have 
surprisingly few accidents. During Christ- 
mas week, however, I knocked down a man, 
an A.S.C. bloke. 

" He was admitted into hospital and I 
went that night to see him. c You fool ! ' 
was his greeting. I agreed. 

" ' You fool ! Here I am being tucked 
into a cushy bed several times a day by kind- 
hearted nurses, bless 'em ! All we patients 
are happy as the day is long. Everybody 
is busy making something to decorate the 
ward. Look at all the holly and mistletoe 
the boys are going to hang up. There are 
going to be concerts and Christmas teas and 
sing-songs and game competitions, and you, 
you fool, knock me down and don't hurt 
me sufficiently to keep me. here. I'm to be 
discharged to-morrow.' 

" And the poor blighter turned his face 
to the tent wall. 

" You notice, we've got some women- 
drivers, sister. They'll be all right for the 
218 



WAR-TIME MARKETING 

lighter base work, at E and H , near 

the coast, but the usual ambulance-car 
driving is not fit work for a woman, with 
its night- work, and out in all weathers. 

" You know, too, what it was in July. 
We had to disinfect and spray our cars 
several times during the day and night 
and our own clothes had to go to the fumi- 
gator. Our shirts we had to change more 
than once during duty. And another thing. 
As you know, we sometimes hadn't a man 
as a case but, at the end of the journey, a 
dead body." 

" True," I remark, " but not one of your 
arguments is strong enough to urge against 
women doing their obvious duty in this 
ambulance work. What about us nurses ? 
We have night-work, we are out in all 
weathers in our camp hospitals. We had 
the vermin nuisance last July, and, indeed, 
always have it in a milder form, of course. 
While as for your last argument ..." 

" Yes, sister, but you nurses well, you 
are just you." 

Marvelling at the inconsistency of man, 
I bid him good-morning, and go towards the 

219 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

market, calling to mind the heated opposi- 
tion we always have from the boys when we 
sometimes say what we often passionately 
feel, that we nurses would gladly and proudly 
go as far up the line as we could be useful, 
and that it is our duty to take the same risks 
of being killed, wounded, or maimed as 
they. 

But chivalry, it seems, is not yet dead, 
and this subject remains the only one on 

which the boys contradict and oppose us. 
# * # 

What is the first item on my shopping 
list ? Eggs. I go towards the poultry sec- 
tion set apart under the shade of Ecole des 
Beaux Arts, and flanked on the further side 
by a beautiful Gothic archway. 

I am offered " beaucoup eggs," as the 
boys would say, great yellow ones, at thirty 
centimes each. Why do eggs look so much 
more tempting when their shells are yellow ? 
Emboldened by the size of my order for 
eggs, the market woman presses me to buy 
chickens trussed and ready for the oven at 
seven, eight, or ten francs. But what in- 
terests me more than the prepared fowls are 
220 



WAR-TIME MARKETING 

the live ones with legs tied together and put 
down in odd places, three cockerels, for 
example, in company with a pair of great 
wooden sabots thrust into a string bag, which 
lies in the wide sill of a mullioned window, 
whose tiny, diamond-shaped panes are throw- 
ing back a myriad shafts of lights from the 
soft, February sunshine. 

I pass a booth laden with aluminium rings 
faites dans les tranchees, and ornamented with 
tiny badges, small designs beaten out of 
spent cartridges and numerous chasings. 
Next to it is a stall for those postcards which 
the boys adore, celluloid masterpieces em- 
blazoned with polychromatic badges and 
flags, and decorated with a chaste salutation 
" Forget-me-not," " To memory dear," " A 
kiss from France," " Ever of thee I'm fondly 
dreaming," and so on. It is not at all 
unusual for one boy to send as many as four 
or five of these postcards with its burning 
message to different, trusting (let us suppose !) 
damsels in England. 

One stall contains biscuits, over a hundred 
different kinds. Hardly a war-time scarcity, 
evidently. The numerous refreshment booths 

221 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

havej pain d'epice, madeleines, croissants, 
rolls, different^ kinds of pastries and brioche. 
How good is the latter, piping hot, with 
fresh butter and honey, and to the accom- 
paniment of tea, which the English have 
now taught the French to make really well. 

The delicacies on the booth presumably 
are chiefly for the indulgence of the market 
shoppers, not the stallholders. For one 
notices several of the latter frugally dining 
on a glass of vin rouge made warm with a 
little hot water and sustaining with an ac- 
companiment of a hunch of dry bread, 
quite a different meal to that of the denizens 
of Co vent Garden, with their plate of " hot 
roast," their fish and chips, or their pot of 
tea and bulky sandwiches. 

But Vheure s'avance and I have only 
worked one item off my shopping list. Even 
so my loitering footsteps are waylaid at a 
china stall, where I buy for half-a-franc each 
some charmingly quaint, dull-brown casse- 
roles. Thereby do I take time by the fore- 
lock, for such an opportunity as this morn- 
ing's may not present itself again before 
spring comes, and the forest near us is a 
222 



WAR-TIME MARKETING 

carpet of flowers, so many of which I shall 
want to commandeer for our marquees. 

Rounding a corner towards the vegetable 
stall I behold two English Tommies making 
purchases of fruit. The stallholder is a girl 
of twenty or so, and she is smiling up at 
them roguishly as she presses her wares 
which I deeply suspect of being somewhat 
overpriced upon one of them, with a " Oh, 
aah, m'sieu, mais c'est bon." 

And Tommy, as he ruefully disburses from 
a tiny belt pocket, is saying, " Garn, yer 
sorsy cat ! 5: 

Potatoes at thirty-five centimes the kilo, 
dessert apples at fifteen centimes, oranges at 
ten centimes how much nicer they appear 
served from the large tub-baskets which 
remind one of Marseilles ! cabbages at 
twenty-five centimes, cauliflowers at sixty, 
conclude my purchase at the greengrocery 
stall, where I am served by a very small, 
exceedingly old-fashioned, young person of 
twelve or thereabouts. She is dressed in a 
large checked, red and black, bouncing dress, 
a small checked, blue and white, bouncing 
apron, a shoulder tippet of black wool 

223 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

crochetted in three tiers, each edged with 
a scalloped-shell pattern. She has an exceed- 
ingly tight, exceedingly thin pigtail, the end 
slightly swollen with a tightly bound barri- 
cade of white sewing cotton, a very quick, 
disarming smile, and a very quickly upturned 
nose. 

We exchange a wide, friendly smile, hers 
fading as she turns to seek a new customer, 
mine fading at Maman's leisure and typically 
French disinclination to make out le facteur. 

Finally, she sweeps aside some swedes and 
carrots and makes a salient on the stall, 
where she rests her book of bills and ag- 
grievedly writes out my account in thin, 
spidery characters. Then she takes out a 
red cardboard porte billet, bulging with the 
greasiest of one, two, five, and twenty franc 
notes efficiently held in place by a piece of 
the greasiest string, gives me my change, 
and we part amid elaborate courtesies. 

A scrubbing-brush and some beeswax, 
I create much merriment by my confession 
that I don't know what to ask for, but my 
need is cire des abeilles, which is immediately 
understood and translated as encaustique, 
224 



WAR-TIME MARKETING 

complete my purchases, and with the order- 
ing of coal and coke my responsibilities 
cease. 

As I write out the laissez-passer to admit 
the coal and the coalheaver into the camp, 
I inquire the price " One hundred and sixty 
francs the thousand kilo." 

Six pounds for nine and a half cwt. ! 
What a price ! As I leave the office, I 
conclude that the only comment which 
meets the situation is the old tag the boys 
adopt when other words seem superfluous : 
" Sister, I believe there's a war on." 



225 



CHAPTER XXII 
HISTORY MAKERS 

How many preconceived notions has the 
war swept aside ! And among others of 
assuredly more weight is the school- days 
idea of a history maker. Every one who 
has dangled a satchel has had his, or her, 
idea of the men who made history, to the 
total exclusion of the great statesmen and 
the inclusion only of mail-clad heroes dash- 
ingly riding with Fluttering pennons and 
picturesque accoutrements to the Crusades, 
of Henry V's swift-armed bowmen naked to 
the waist and with bare foot planted in the 
ploughed soil of Agincourt, of sturdy Iron- 
sides, close-cropped and shovel-hatted, march- 
ing into action lustily singing their Psalms, 
of the dashing, scarlet-coated body of men 
who added to England's fame the unforget- 
table record at Balaclava, how they have 
226 



HISTORY MAKERS 

fired our blood, and stirred our imagination ! 
How we have thrilled and exalted over their 
doings ! 

And here we are living in the midst of 
history makers, men who have more than 
once taken part in deeds equalling and, on 
occasion, excelling that of Balaclava, and 
we readjust our notion of history makers, 
we correct our perspective, we humanize and 
individualize those makers of history. We 
realize that they were not men of super- 
human nerve, muscle and endurance. We 
bring to mind for the first time the little, 
old-fashioned, girl-children, wimpled and 
with steeple head-dress waiting at home, 
the grey-robed Puritan wives a little sancti- 
monious and wholly anxious about those 
Cromwellian warriors, the Victorian wives, 
big-hipped and tight-waisted, with smoothed 
hair in chenille hair-nets, left to go through 
life without those fallen Crimean heroes. 
The men who made history were men. We 
are apt to forget that and think of them as 
so many lines and paragraphs of a history 
book. 

And when the standard histories of this 

227 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

war come to be written, no doubt they will 
be done by terribly efficient old gentlemen 
who wear pince-nez and have taken high 
honours in Classical Tripos. They will be 
written probably in polysyllabic prose and 
in epic style. They will abound in references 
to policies and constitutions, to treaties and 
conventions, and probably posterity will be 
deluded, momentarily perhaps, into thinking 
of our history makers as imposing person- 
ages clothed in scarlet, ermine-bordered, or 
august figures endowed with the fearsome 
dignity of Mars. 

But for my short span I shall refuse to 
forget that among the makers of history in 
our great age there were Tommy Brown and 
" The Colonel," and " Aussy " and " Papa." 

Tommy came to us in the big push of 
July 1916, military age twenty, real age 
eighteen. He had a gunshot wound in the 
head, was trephined, had a cerebral hernia, 
and for a time got along very nicely. He 
was great friends with another little boy 
whose bed we moved next his and " the 
Heavenly Twins," " David and Jonathan," 
and " the Children," were some of the names 
228 



HISTORY MAKERS 

they received. The other little boy had a 
hernia and had been trephined ; he had 
forgotten a great deal and was to teach such 
little things as the swallowing of a pill, the 
fastening of a button, the necessity for 
mastication, and so on. 

During the day we used to put " the 
Children's " beds in the sun, give them 
Japanese sunshades, drinks, fans, picture 
papers, and cigarettes, and quite a good 
time they used to have together. Every 
one in the camp knew them and used to 
exchange greetings and bring them little 
gifts, until at the end of the day's levee 
their lockers used to be well-stored pantries 
of chocolate, fruit, sweets and biscuits. 

Then Tommy began to "go back." He 
commenced having fits and obsessions. He 
didn't want to play with " the Colonel," as 
the other boy was called. He was irritated 
with the latter when he persisted, as he did 
dozens of times in the day, in clacking his 
tongue in imitation of our scurrying feet. 
" Sister, sister," was his continual cry if we 
moved out of his sight. " Don't leave me 
sister," he implored one afternoon. 

229 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

44 No, I won't. I'm just going to the next 
bed," about two feet from his own. " I'm 
not really leaving you. I want to feed the 
Colonel." 

" No, sister, don't. He doesn't want you 
as much as I do." 

" Oh ! but he wants his tea. Come, 
sonny, be a man." 

" No, sister, I don't want to be a man. 
I only want you," and he used to put out 
a hot, little hand and grab belt or apron or 
skirt, a hand that clung in the extraordinarily 
tenacious fashion that a sick person's hands 
can cling. 

One day in one of his more lucid moments 
he told me what his obsession was. When 
up the line, his company were entering some 
trenches taken over from the enemy, and the 
dead body of a German with black face and 
protruding tongue and eyes had been the first 
sight that greeted him. The boy in front of 
Tommy had, on entering the trench, caught 
his foot on the body with the natural result. 
Poor Tommy could not rid himself of the 
memory, and when the fits recurred it was 
the dead German who always pursued him. 
280 



HISTORY MAKERS 

Poor little Tommy ! He was the only 
child of his mother, and she was a widow. 
She used to write him every day, and, as the 
days wore on, he could not even be troubled 
to have us open and read the letters to him. 
He just lay with his fingers closed on the 
day's letter. Then one brilliant morning of 
fleckless turquoise sky and golden light, he 
died very quietly and very peacefully, just 
slept away. 

Poor little mother in black, no more listen- 
ing for his welcome footstep, no more washing 
and sewing for him, no more cooking his 
favourite dishes, nothing but a numbing 
monotony, an aching emptiness in the coming 
years. I crossed his hands and prayed an 
unsaid prayer. He lay like a carven figure 
on a tomb in some mediaeval vault. Poor 

little history maker ! 

* * * 

It was one fine August morning when I 
made his acquaintance. I was dipping under 
the eaves of the tent when the ward-corporal 
brought along a batch of wounded from a 
convoy, and heading the queue was a roguish- 
looking individual with copper-coloured curls 

231 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

crisping round a head like that of an Olympian 
competitor. A tin hat a few sizes too small, 
a broad smile, and fun-laden eyes of intense 
blue was the impression one got of him as 
one hurried on. 

He came into the marquee, was fed, 
bathed, and, evidently thinking his self- 
imposed silence of sufficiently long duration, 
broke into a babble of talk which never 
ceased until three or four days later he was 
evacuated to Blighty. 

u You know, sister, I'm too great a rogue 
to die unhung, so Fritz won't get me. He's 
winged me this time, but he won't get me. 
Oh no, it's nor-too-bad, but, say, sister, is 
it a Blighty ? Dinkum ? That's the goods." 

A Ballarat men interposed. 

" Am I from Aussy ? Betcher sweet life. 
Been there, sister ? Oh ! you don't know 
what a country's like yet. Gosh, it's God's 
own country. You're going apres la guerre ? 
You'll never come back. Some squatter 
will snap you up." 

One or two English Tommies grin sheep- 
ishly and look up tentatively, but " Aussy ' J 
careers boldly on. 
232 



HISTORY MAKERS 

" How are we doing ? 3t he speaks to 
another patient, wounded a few days pre- 
viously, from his own division. 

" Oh, same as ever," then his love of 
an audience overcoming his desire to give 
authentic news, " You know, the Bosches 
have got a gun whose shells burst three 
times, don't you ? Fact. But we've got a 
gun whose recoil brings up the next day's 
rations." Turning to me, " It's an Austra- 
lian invention, sister. The man who in- 
vented it has been invalided home and runs 
a boomerang farm in Victoria." 

" It sounds like an Australian invention," 
I drily agree, and some quality of my voice 
makes the other patients laugh. 

" Oh, come off it, Aussy," says the Bal- 
larat man. " Don't try kidding sister. She 
can do a bit in that line. She'd kid you up 
country without a tent." 

" Dinkum," says the Queenslander. 
" She'd kid you up a tree and chop it down 
while you stood on the branches." 

" She'd kid you down a well and cut the 
rope after she played out the bucket," 
joins in the West Australian. 

233 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

u All this sounds remarkably unkind," 
a vigorous disclaimer. " But it gives point 
to my belief that before going to Australia 
I must learn the language." 

" There you are, Digger. That's the way 
she hands it out to us, doesn't half put it 
across us sometimes." 

Soon the talk drifts, as it always does 
when two or three Australians are gathered 
together, to " Gyppo," and as I run back- 
wards and forwards I hear tales of the bonza 
old chap who was the only fair dealer in 
Alex and who gave you a bonza feed of Al 
tucker for five piastre ; of the old beggars 
who used to cry " Gibbe backsheesh, Austra- 
lian ; " of the newsvendor who glibly repeated 
words taught him by a mischievous Tommy, 
and came calling " Verra good news, 100,000 
Australians killed," and of how " we cleared 
him out and gosh, he never touched the 
ground, sister. Awful crowd, we Aussies, you 
know. We're a fighting unit, not soldiers." 

And like so many naughty schoolboys 
they derive considerable satisfaction from 
my agreement that they are indeed " terrible 
boys." 
234 



HISTORY MAKERS 

The last day Aussy was in the wards, we 
had among other admissions a little boy 
who, when I asked him his name, fumbled 
and plucked at his tunic pocket, grew red 
in the face, continued to fumble, and finally 
drew out his pay-book and showed me his 
name. 

It was Maconochie. 

But alas ! though I received the informa- 
tion in an appreciated silence, I could only 
shield him for the time being. His chart 
came down from the office shortly afterwards, 
and his name stood revealed for all who 
ran to read. 

" Aussy " was merciless. 

He held a court of inquiry as to what was 
to be done with " the enemy," but the 
sentence to be carried out the following 
morning at dawn was too gory, too piece- 
meal, and too culinary to be recorded here. 
Meantime, " Fray Bentos, you've left the 
best part of your head over here," throwing 
him his cap. " Rations, lend me your razor. 
I expect you'll have one, since you've got 
almost a moustache." 

" Mixed veg, will you have a backsheesh 

235 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

fag ? " throwing him a ration cigarette. 
" Irish stew, sling the possy over 'eere," 
putting out his hand for the jam. 

Maconoehie, however, had lived his short 
life in Eastern London, and after the first 
short-lived shyness had worn away, showed 
himself no mean match for " Aussy." 

" I guess you're some kid," remarked the 
latter, as Maconoehie spun an enamelled 
plate to the ridge of the marquee and caught 
it behind his back. 

" I guess you're some goat," flashed back 
" Fray Bentos," as he dived into an adjacent 
annexe. 

But unfortunately for the merriment of our 
existence, the ward-corporal came round a 
few minutes afterwards and warned " Aussy " 
for England. 

" Good-bye, sister, I'm real sorry I'm 
going," so was I, " I'd like to give you 
a souvenir, my rising sun, which has come 
with me from Australia, been through the 
Peninsula picnic, and then through this 
strafe in La Belle France. Good-bye, sister, 
and may your little shadow never grow 
less." 
286 



HISTORY MAKERS 

He clumped out of the ward, a " dinkum 
Aussy " hat pulled over his copper-coloured 
curls, his two labels tied to his tunic, and 
a sling holding up his "boxing-glove" of 
cotton- wool and bandage which swathed the 
remains of his left hand. He had endeared 
himself to all in the ward, and he left behind 
him a streak of brightness which still occa- 
sionally shines on me. Happy young rogue, 

most unorthodox of history makers ! 
* * # 

" Papa " was in the Foresters. He came 
to us in the fall suffering from bronchitis. 
He was admitted somewhat early in the 
morning, and I only had time to see him 
installed before the medical officer did his 
round. Then the resulting catechism dis- 
closed some slightly surprising facts. 

" Have you had this trouble long ? " 

" Off and on for a matter of five and 
twenty years. In the spring of 1882 I had 
pleurisy and " 

1882 ! Good gracious, years before one 
was born ! One looks amazed at the hoary 
old die-hard. 

" How old are you ? " 

237 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

He tells his age. 

" I think you have done your bit, what 
do you say, sister ? '* as the " Blighty 
tickets " are handed over. 

" Well, sir, I have been discharged once " 
a fit of coughing " have my discharge 
papers here," hunting in his treasure bag 
during another fit of coughing, " but I 
joined up again. Once a soldier always a 
soldier, sir, and I'm worth plenty young 
ones yet. Those who can help, ought to. 
I couldn't stand aside and do nothing, sir." 

Good old history maker ! Would that 
all the male and female slackers could see 
and hear you, could look at the wrinkled 
face, the scant, hoary hair, the toil-worn 
hands, and know of your brave attempt to 
help your country in her heavy hour of 
stress. The Old Country cannot be so effete 
when she turns out men like you. It is 
men of your breed that has won and will 
keep for England her proud fame, eminence, 
and power. 
v Doughty old history maker ! 



238 



CHAPTER XXIII 
OUR BOY-BLUE MAIL 

46 NOTHING much for you," says a nurse, 
turning from the table where the mail is 
spread out. " A letter from a patient, judg- 
ing by the writing." 

44 Oh, is that all ? " one grouses, taking up 
the note. 

Now that little grouse is very culpable, 
for there is scarcely a nurse but receives at 
one time or other some very charming letters 
from patients, letters she will be glad to 
con over in the coming years, perhaps when 
she is a lonely old woman, and the full, 
crowded days of the present have become 
dim memories. 

Most of the letters from 44 our boys " are 
lame, halting, little expressions of thanks, 
laboriously written from an inarticulate mind 
and with the fmd-you-well-as-this-leaves-me- 

239 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

at-present style which, one thought, had been 
ridiculed out of existence. They are written 
on the most marvellous assortment of scrap 
paper that one could wish to see ; but, of 
course, papier de luxe is scarcely to be 
associated with a dug-out. Letters from 
England come to us written on " real " note- 
paper. 

" DEAR SISTER Just these few lines 
to let you know that I arrived all right, 
but we had it very rough, and a lot of 
the boys was ill but we got over it all- 
right. I am in a very good hospital, 
but I wish your hospital was over here. 
" From your loving patient, 



The adjective preceding " patient " may 
be taken as a matter of form. 

" DEAR SISTER Just a few lines hop- 
ing this will find you in the best of health, 
and all the boys in D 4. In regards 
myself, we had a pleasant voyage, and 

then we was sent to X . Well we 

were treated very nicely and it is a beau- 
240 



OUR BOY-BLUE MAIL 

tiful hospital with plenty of nice food. 
It is in a building, more swanky than 
yours but not so jolly, the sisters is very 
nice but they dont laugh as much as you 
do and dont cheer a chap up so much. 
Well Sister, it is a long way from Lon- 
don " (his native place) " but we must 
be thankful to be hear, and you might 

remember me to Sister F and Sister 

H also all D2 and D5 and D4 boys. 

Hoping they all get Blighty and thanking 
you for your kindness wishing you the 
best of health and roll on the end of the 

war from your obedient patient No . 

" Pte. Joshua, 

"1st East Mudshires, 
" No. 2 Hut General Hospital, 

t( XT ?? 

It is very nice to have one's smiles appre- 
ciated, and very good to know that the boys 
never realise how much it costs sometimes 
to remain cheery. 

44 DEAR SISTER Just a little note 
to let you know I havent forgotten C 
lines and the sisters in that little part of 
Q 241 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

France, hoping to find you all in the best 
of health as this leaves me here at pre- 
sent. Since I wrote last I have been in 
the Trenches again among the frozen 
snow but I only lasted a week and then I 
had to come out swinging the lead with 
trench feet and got sent down to hos- 
pital again but I never had the good for- 
tune to get to C lines No . Never 

mind better luck next time. 

" We're for it again to-morrow so I 
shall have to look out for another 
Blighty complaint. 

" Well I think this is all this time so I 
will have to close this from 

" Yours sincerely, 

" Australia." 

" DEAR SISTER A few lines in an- 
swer to your ever welcome letter and 
was pleased to hear that things were 
going on well with you all and thank 
you very much for the parcel of choco- 
late that you were so kind to send. It 
arrived in good condition and at a good 
time too, for we were going in. Pleased 
242 



OUR BOY-BLUE MAIL 

to hear little M's arm got on allright and 
he got his tickets. He was such a nice 
fellow. 

" Did it take you very long with the 
spring cleaning I wish I had been there 
to help you because I know you would 
have a lot to do. 

" I will now close wishing you the very 
best of luck, from 

" Yours sincerely, 

" Australia." 

The above deathless epistle had been read, 
signed and censored by " Australia's " officer 
who, no doubt, was highly edified by his 
desire to be back helping with the spring 
cleaning. 

" DEAR SISTER Having regained 
the use of my right arm I thought I 
would endeavour to scribble you a few 
lines to thank you for your kind atten- 
tion and tender care while I was sick in 
that little bit of France known to the C 
lines bhoys as a corner of heaven. Well 
I have much pleasure in letting you see 
I am in England. When I left C lines I 

243 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

went to the Convalescent Camp and then 
back to the Fritzes and there I stopped 
one with my name and number written 
on it. I stopped it with my right arm 
which got a compound fracture in the 
right humerus in two places, and I am 
quite happy and contented with my 
suvenoir presented to me on the 1st of 
July. I got hit about 8-45 ak emma 
while making an advance from the first 
German line to the second, and for- 
tunately was able to crawl into a nice, 
large, comfortable shell hole and lay 
there till dark and then successfully 
crawled back to my own little dug out 
reaching it by 1 ak emma. By 5.30 ak 
emma I was miles from the trenches 
lying in a cosy cot detailing my expe- 
riences to a very nice sister from Bolton. 
I was under the painful influence that I 
had lost the use of the arm altogether, 
but I was X-rayed twice and now my arm 
is so much better that I am able to under 
difficulties scribble you these few lines. 
I hope you will return this scrawl if you 
are unable to read it. We are doing 
244 



OUR BOY-BLUE MAIL 

famous here, have been here a week and 
have been to two garden parties and a 
lovely motor drive 65 miles. Well I 
think I have completed my little portion 
of self-concerning news and so will now 
inquire of you. I trust you are quite 
well and not overworked by endless con- 
voys. I would very much like to know 

how Sister H and Sister B are 

should you have the opportunity to state 
the same when you answer this awfull 
piece of correspondance. Well, sister, 
I have had a little piece of luck when at 
one of the garden parties. I won a wist 
drive and made my winning number of 
tricks when diamonds were trumps on 
the second to the last table I played at. 
I got a beautifully marked cigarette case, 
also a box of 100 cigs. Well I am afraid 
I must close it has taken me nearly an 
hour to niggle this terrible piece of work 
into this state, so now dear Sister I will 
wish you further success, a jolly time, a 
hasty conclusion to the dreadful war so 
that you may return home, also trusting 
to hear from you as soon as convenient 

245 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

to you and I do hope you write, kindly 
remember me to the other sisters and 
except the very kindest regards yourself 
and allow me to remain 

" Your faithful patient, 

44 

" P.S. It's grand weather here in 
Blighty we have less than two hours ago 
given 3 cheers for Tommies and Sisters 
in France, it was at the conclusion of a 
small concert in our Hall and it's a 
wonder you didn't hear us, best of luck 
to you all." 

The malapropisms are easily translatable. 
" Ak emma " originates in the signalling 
system. P, E, D, V, and several other 
letters sound so similar from a distance that 
they are made Pip, Emma, Don, Vic, and 
so on. Thus a.m. becomes ak emma, p.m. 
becomes pip emma, an observation post, 
O.P. becomes O pip, V.A.D. would be vie ak 
don, and so on. The guileless manner in 
which the boy takes it for granted that I 
shall be interested in the exact circumstance 
of his winning the " wist drive " is typically 
246 



OUR BOY-BLUE MAIL 

naive and unaffected and a good index of the 
friendliness which exists between the sisters 
and the boys. 

" DEAR SISTER Just a few lines to 
let you know I am very near my home. 
I am at G It is a very large hos- 
pital and I am sending you a few picture 
postcards to let you have an idea of the 
place. I only regret I was unable to 
stay in your " hotel " for a longer 
period, for altho I was only a lodger for 
a day and two nights, yet I had quite 
settled down and feel sure I should 
have been perfectly happy. Kindly re- 
member me to the Captain. Both your 
kindness I shall never forget wherever 
I may be, I remain, 

" One of your grateful patients, 



was in many ways a very 
interesting man. He was aged about forty, 
looked about fifty, had the dignity and court- 
liness of a man of sixty, and the heart of a 
boy of eighteen. He had lived in Paris for 
about twenty years, spoke and wrote French 

247 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

better than his own language, had all the jargon 

and slang of Paris on the tip of his tongue, 

yes, he kept it there, and had the most 

wonderful collection of photographs of poilu- 

chums that surely exists in the British Army. 

The following letter was written by a 

Public School and Oxford man with the 

distinguished rank of lance-corporal, and the 

most charming disposition imaginable. 

" DEAR Miss You see I did not 

have the good fortune to get to London 
after all " (London was his home) 
" This was supremely bad luck, and of 
a sort that one could not possibly fight 
against. You see our hospital ship made 
intimate acquaintance with a German 
torpedo and we had to take to the boats 
with much celerity and dispatch, a 
very painful process to me as I had to 
walk up two companion ladders and 
climb over taffrails etc. unaided and on 
my groggy leg, and after a somewhat 
harassing time to board a Destroyer 
that turned up most opportunely, and 

thence to X many hours late. 

248 



OUR BOY-BLUE MAIL 

" So all arrangements for our disposal 
had to be altered, and I landed up here. 
Strafe it ! However no lives were lost 
and they towed the hospital ship into 
port, and last, but not least, I am told our 
Destroyer sunk the submarine. So all's 
well that ends well. Meanwhile I am 
quite comfortably fixed up here, my 
leg is getting well much quicker than it 
needs to ! ! and my people are coming 
to see me to-morrow. So I have really 
nothing at which to grumble. 

" I want to thank you most awfully 
for the really good time you gave me in 
C 4. It is a long time since I have so 
enjoyed a few days. I never knew 
before how kind sisters are to the boys : 
you certainly taught me a lesson all of 
you. 

" With very kind regards to yourself 
and all my other friends in the ward I 
am, 

" Yours sincerely, 



The following letter was written by a 

249 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

Canadian boy, the fur-trapper who had not 
slept between sheets for four years. 

" DEAR SISTER I must make an at- 
tempt or is it attack ? to write to you. 
I'm afraid as usual it will prove a failure. 

" Firstly, you can't imagine how sorry 
I was to leave your hospital. It was 
almost as bad as leaving home when I 
went to Canada. I was perfectly miser- 
able all the way across and, finally, was 
horribly seedy but am improving a 
little now and have practically no pain." 

(Then follows a remark about sisters, which 
modesty forbids me reproduce.) 

" Don't forget about the Jack London 
book. I should love to read it with you, 
and talk about it. It is very simple but 
the descriptions are extremely good. 
The first story is rather far-fetched. I 
cannot imagine any man going way back 
without plenty of ammunition and I 
simply can't imagine a man deserting his 
partner. For one thing, they are usually 
too badly scared by loneliness. 
250 



OUR BOY-BLUE MAIL 

" The third yarn is real good. The 
writer must have had some, otherwise he 
would not know the habits of dogs, water 
holes and trails. . . ." 

(Then follows a description of the habits of 
dogs and the use of a balancing pole, etc.) 

" But there, all this will hardly in- 
terest you, even if it is readable." (As a 
matter of fact I was deeply interested.) 

" I am so sorry this is such a flat kind 
of letter, so different from what I would 
like it to be. Just before the stretcher- 
bearers came for me I wrote in your al- 
bum. I don't know whether you knew 
I had done so or whether you saw it, but 
I wrote ' There's gladness in remem- 
brance.' It is a very hackneyed phrase 
but, sister, I do mean it." 

" Thanking you for your great kindness 

which I will never forget Oh I guess 

I'll ring off. I can't write letters for 
peanuts. Goodbye. 

" Yours very sincerely, 



251 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

The following extract from a Public School 
boy's letter gives a typically twentieth century 
account of the field of glory and honour, and of 
our noble warriors' way of regarding things. 

" Had a short strafe yesterday and 
chucked quite a bit of stuff at the Boche, 
hope it wiped out some of the swine. I 
love bang, bang, banging away and am 
looking forward to a great shove one day. 
Sorry I missed the Somme, even though 
it was well, what it was. 

" The Boche dropped stuff pretty near 
my part one day and, discretion being 
the better part of valour, I did a tem- 
porary evacuation. They also at various 
times have snipped three bits out of my 
tunic, dirty dogs, when they know I'm 
so far from Saville Row ! ! 

" We came out last night and did 
about thirteen miles back from the line. 
We're now in a nice, quiet bit of country 
where we don't expect a 5.9 through the 
billet, or to awake in the middle of the 
night at the sound of the gas gong to fix 
helmets. 
252 



OUR BOY-BLUE MAIL 

" We are quartered at a farm where 
I've already inspected all live stock and 
made love to a ripping old thing in the 
doggy line. The hairies are in the open. 
They are the worst off as usual and they 
need all the attention we can give them 
to carry us through. 

" By the way, they're letting me put 
up a pip, so that spells L-E-A-V-E." 

April, 1916. 

44 DEAR LITTLE MOTHER I suppose 
you got my letter written in Southamp- 
ton Water and haven't had time to 

answer it. I hung on to P all the 

way across, good chap, but proper old 
country boy when travelling. We had a 
beautiful journey across the ditch and 
thoroughly enjoyed our breakfast even 
though it consisted of Easter eggs, dyed 
purple. 

" We had a very nice train journey 
here and then discovered we were going 
to a brand new hospital at which we were 
the first patients. There were crowds 
waiting at the station with lovely cars, 

253 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

and the cheering and handwagging was 
something awful. However they finally 
got us to hospital without running over 
too many kind people. 

" We have a very good time here, 
motor drives, cinemas, concerts, etc. 
but three times this week I have been to 
a dentist. On Monday he pulled, pushed 
and otherwise induced seven of my 
teeth out. On Friday he put in a mine, 
I think, and blew out some more. Then 
he dynamited again yesterday so my 
mouth feels like a crater. Oh I am 
enjoying life. 

ic I am jolly glad the gramophone 
repairs are still holding out. I hope you 
are going strong, Little Mother, and have 
nice boys in the ward and that they are 
taking care of you." (The boys taking 
care of me, forsooth !) 

" I think I'll shove in the clutch and 
foot brake now and switch off. 

" My very kindest regards, 
" Yours very sincerely 



254 



OUR BOY-BLUE MAIL 

" DEAR LITTLE MOTHER Just a few 
lines from the East to tell you I am in 
harness once more, in a different part 
of the world this time. I sent you a 
card but doubt very much if you get it, 
being a picture card, and they seem to be 
taboo. My address is ... and I should 
be very pleased and grateful if you would 
write. I mustn't tell you where we are 
now. You might tell the enemy ! ! ! ! 

" Coming out I chummed with a boy 
from your town. He is very comic and 
we are such close chums that people call 
us Pontius and Pilate. Not very nice 
names, are they ? I'm sure you would 
have found us better ones. 

" Well, Little Mother, I don't want to 
bore you too much so with my very best 
wishes, 

" I remain, 



255 



CHAPTER XXIV 

UGH! 

February, 1917. 

BEING in the middle of my second year in 
France I thought I had sampled active ser- 
vice under every climatic condition, but this 
past fortnight has introduced me to a new 
phase, active service during a black, hard 
frost, thirty and even more degrees of it. 

We awake to find our camp wash-basin 
sheeted with ice, our whilom hot water 
bottle crackling with ice, our toothbrush a 
solid mass, our sponge hard, our tooth paste 
frozen in its tube, our boots stiff as boards, 
our chilblains insistent and persistent, 
especially those on the heels, and our boot- 
laces flagellant to those on the fingers. 

In the wards (tents, of course) everything 
that will freeze has frozen. The thermo- 
meters, customarily standing in a small jar 
256 



UGH! 

of carbolic solution, are found embedded in 
a little, icy mass. This thawed, and a few 
temperatures taken, one tries to chart the 
same. Then the fountain pen refuses to 
fount. The ward ink ? Frozen, also. 

One begins to get ready the dressing trays 
and lotions. Most of the lotions are frozen. 
Hence, round the ward fire in the early 
morning is a somewhat crowded collection. 
First and foremost all the fire buckets, then 
numerous big and little lotion bottles, their 
corks removed, and a piece of gauze over the 
mouth of the bottle. Then sundry medicine 
bottles. 

Giving the medicines in a " line " consist- 
ing, say, of eight marquees is quite a lengthy 
business. The medicines are primarily all to 
thaw. Some indeed, the ferri. and amm. cit. 
for example, are a solid mass, and on more than 
one occasion the mass has broken the bottle. 

Castor oil one finds to be a kind of emul- 
sion, which must also go through a thawing 
(a slow one, unfortunately), process. The 
medicine towel is frozen, and one must needs 
melt some ice to obtain a little water to wash 
the glasses. 

259 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

On trying to make an egg-flip, the eggs are 
discovered to be frozen, and on going to pro- 
cure a drink of milk and soda, the milk is 
found to be solid, and a debris of broken 
glass, and a straggling little sheet of ice give 
testimony to what has happened to the soda 
water bottles. 

Then a message comes that the water 
supply has failed owing to the frost, and that 
only half a pailful of water per dual marquee 
is available until the water carts come in 
three hours' time. 

" The water for dressings only," one re- 
minds the men. That means none for shav- 
ing, for washing patients " Faith ! It's too 
cold to wash," says Pat, in true boyish relief 
for washing breakfast dishes, for scrubb- 
ing, though truth to tell, the water has 
sometimes frozen on one end of the table 
while the other end was being scrubbed, 
or any for hot water bottles. 

Fortunately, all the hot water bottles are 
rilled with water either in cold liquid, or more 
frequently in solid form, and they are hung 
round the stove for the contents to melt 
before being re-heated. 
260 



UGH! 

This morning I encountered one bag which 
had been knocked out of bed, and the con- 
tents were as hard as a brick. The bed 
patients we keep deliciously warm with lots 
of blankets, large bed-socks (as many pairs 
as desired) and woollen clothes from head 
to heel, " cholera belts," nightingales, gloves, 
balaclavas, anything warm and woolly they 
care to have. 

The up-patients congregate round the 
stoves, and with the tents laced up and 
blankets hung over the openings, it is quite 
an easy matter to keep cosy. 

We occasionally laugh at the men dressed 
cap-a-pie in bed, but we nursing sisters are 
only a degree or two less thorough. Indeed, 
preparation for bed is a great event. 

We all set going our various types of oil- 
stoves and Tommy's cookers with water for 
hot bottles, washing and hot drinks. The 
bunk is a regular Moab, for we do all our 
" big washes " at night lacking the courage 
to do so in the morning. Some mornings 
we had no wash- water brought us at all, for 
our supply had frozen, and the choice rested 
between using that out of our hot water 

261 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

bottles, or waiving the edict of the powers 
that be forbidding the use of powder, and 
just indulging in the advice of beauty 
specialists, and giving oneself a good " dry- 
clean." 

The " big wash " over, one brews the hot 
drink tea, cafe noir, cafe au lait or chocolat, 
or, perhaps, a glass of vin rouge made hot, 
and served with a little sugar and a slice of 
lemon, vin rouge at un-franc-dix the three 
gill bottle and forty centimes back on the 
return of the bottle ! 

Then one caresses and anoints one's chil- 
blains on toes, heels, fingers, and ears, rubs 
glycerine and red lotion into one's cracked 
chaps, face cream on one's frost-bitten face, 
and glycerine on one's cracking lips, dons 
pyjamas, nightdress, bed jacket, bed socks, 
bed stockings, piles on the bed dressing- 
gown, travelling rug, and fur coat, tries to 
read in bed, and finds it too cold to have 
one's hands from under the bedclothes, 
thinks of the home folks, to whom one ought 
to have written, and of the five minutes sewing 
one ought to have done, decides it is much too 
cold for any of them, turns out the light, and 
262 



UGH! 

cuddles down, hoping that one may go to 
sleep and remain asleep until " reveille " with- 
out the necessity of having to sit up in bed 
and massage numb feet or knees, or without 
having to get up to do physical exercise of 
the On-your-toes-rise-lower-rise-lower variety. 
Besides, one must remember, this is the 
better weather for the men in the trenches, 
and so long as we have this hard, dry cold, 
we don't have those poor, dreadful, blue, 
purple-black, swollen trench feet among our 
cases. 



263 



CHAPTER XXV 
O.A.S. HOSPITALITY 

IT sounds somewhat Irish in the saying, but 
it is none the less true that the best part of 
the day is the night. 

After mess dinner at eight, the day nursing 
staff is free until 7.30 next morning, so it is 
then that we do our " entertaining." This 
consists of going to one another's bunks or 
bell tents, and having coffee and biscuits and 
fruit and chocolate and conversation. 

The hostess usually receives us in bed, 
which is wisdom on her part, for she is out 
of the way, and that is an important factor 
in an area where even inches count. The 
"guests" are customarily in dressing-gowns, 
garments which are as varied as the costumes 
at a fancy dress ball, and which hail from the 
sphere of our righting grounds. There are 
dressing robes bought in Valetta, burnouses 
264 



O.A.S. HOSPITALITY 

picked up in bazaars at " Alex," checked 
matinees from les galleries in the nearest 
provincial French town, little turned up 
slippers from Salonica, boudoir mules bought 
in Paris and jeered at because they are not 
of O.A.S. stability, comfortable stodgy Eng- 
lish slippers knitted by comfortable stodgy 
English aunts, and utilitarian "slip-on's" 
hailing from Oxford Street. 

" O.A.S." is responsible for some dreadful 
lapses and some fearful makeshifts. Our 
meals and our crockery are most unconven- 
tional. To-night we drank black coffee from 
the cup-screw of a vacuum flask, the cup- 
casing of a spirit flask, a medicine glass, a 
marmalade jar, a " real china " cup, and a 
piece of porcelain which in peace days was 
used to contain face powder, and which was 
accepted with the remark " To what base 
uses. . . . " We hadn't a spoon, only a 
silver button hook. We ate biscuits from 
the tin. We ate sugared strawberries, 
delicious little wild ones, with a pair of 
scissors. 

We talk as gourmets of the food we eat, 
and discuss the "cakes from home," dilat- 

265 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

ing on the excellence of the cook, whether 
she be fat, autocratic, and of long domestic 
standing, or whether she be a young sister 
just rawly recruited from a domestic science 
school. Our tastes, too, are catholic. 

We partook heartily one night of lobster, 
cheese biscuits, black coffee, " plum cake " 
from the canteen, and slept just as heartily, 
and next day laughed equally heartily at the 
rueful dismay of an old dug-out of our 
acquaintance, who envied our digestion and 
rosy cheeks. 

Of course, like all nursing and medical 
people we " talk shop." One asks the sister 
from the recovery hut how the boy is pro- 
gressing she sent for operation, and one of 
the theatre sisters answers X's inquiry about 
her trephine case, and Y's question about her 
amputation case, and we grow keenly in- 
terested in descriptions of others, until the 
girl who sleeps next to the theatre-sister 
with only a partition between them vows 
she trembles with fear at the possibility of 
the said sister coming over in her sleep with a 
penknife as scalpel and curling tongs as 
artery forceps. 
266 



O.A.S. HOSPITALITY 

The smile she raises is well timed, for the 
conversation has taken on a tragic tone. 
The sister from the recovery hut has told 
how one patient on the dangerously-ill list 
did not want her to write to his wife " be- 
cause there is a new baby coming this week," 
of how word has come through from home 
that " little sonny's " mother is dead, and he 
must not be told yet, and of how another 
boy only nineteen had opened dying eyes 
to see some flowers she had taken into the 
ward, and how pleased he had been for it 
reminded him of the garden at home. We 
sit on the floor of the bell tent and gaze out 
into the night, a night when the sound of the 
guns is insistent. Our eyes seek the horizon, 
and we suddenly feel a helpless band of 
futile women, agonisingly impotent. 

" Well, I must go, and thanks for your 
cold coffee," the theatre- sister remarks. Her 
little piece of naivete dispels our feeling of 
sadness. One's moods occur in patches on 
active service. 

Only one night in several months have we 
had an enemy aircraft alarm. We had 
brushed our hair convivially, and the early 

267 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

birds had retired to rest when we heard the 
" Stand to " bugle sounded, followed by 
" Lights out " and " Fall in at the double." 
Racing cars, and the sound of many march- 
ing feet were the next sounds, and then came 
a message that each nursing sister had to go 
to her post, for ours is a tent hospital, and a 
marquee burns in three minutes, which is 
not a great deal of time in which to remove 
helpless patients. 

The first remark would have delighted the 
cynic. " What shall we wear ? " called one 
girl from the darkness, the seeming frivolity 
of the question being set aside when she 
wondered if, from force of habit, she should 
go in ward uniform with its preponderance of 
white, or in dark coat and hat. The next 
remark got a laugh, and cries of " Good old 
Scotty," for it was " I'm going to take my 
money, in case the hut gets hit." 

In a very few minutes we, our identity 
and burial discs accompanying, were at the 
doors of the wards, not entering in case of 
waking the patients, but gazing expectantly 
up into the sky, and trying to feel as thrilled 
and frightened as we ought to have been. 
268 



O.A.S. HOSPITALITY 

But the aircraft was beaten back, and all 
we suffered was the loss of an hour's sleep, 
and a little unnecessary preparation on the 
following nights of placing in readiness gum 
boots and thick coats. 



269 



CHAPTER XXVI 

NIGHT NURSING WITH THE 
B.E.F. 

I DREADED the very thought of night duty 
with its tense anxieties, its straining vigilance, 
its many sorrows. Still I had come to 
France to "do my bit," and that bit for two 
months meant night work. On active ser- 
vice, too, one quickly becomes inured to 
doing many things one dislikes and detests ; 
any one with the slightest particle of un- 
selfishness could not fail to become otherwise. 
" Half-past six, sister " ; the batman 
clumps along the corridor of the hut in 
stalwart army boots, making enough noise 
to wake the Seven Sleepers, and night nurses 
are far from being in the same category as 
those enviable beings. Half-past six, dinner 
at quarter-past seven, twenty-five minutes 
in which to lie persuading one's self to get up 
270 



NIGHT NURSING WITH THE B.E.F. 

before the reluctant dive from bed must be 
made. It is at first strange to go on awaking 
to a meal of roast beef and boiled turnips, 
etc., in place of the bacon and eggs to which 
we have for years been accustomed. Still 
we are adaptable people, and one must needs 
eat, to live as strenuously as we do. 

We each take our lighted lantern as we 
leave the mess, and trudge down to the 
many rows of long tents whitely glistening 
under the streaming light of a brilliant moon. 
A dear old major of the old school meets us 
and bids us " good-night," addressing us as 
" My Lady of the Lamp." One of the band, 
however, very much of the new school, thinks 
" the Hurricane Girls " would be a better 
title for us, and suggests we could become a 
passable item in a modern revue song and 
chorus, the final effect being to black out the 
stage for a " lamp dance." 

The weather is a very important factor 
during night duty in a camp hospital. Each 
nurse has four to well, " x " number 
of tents allotted to her, the number depend- 
ing on her status and on the division, the 
medical division having a larger number 

s 273 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

to each nurse than the heavier surgical 
division. The nurse passes from tent to tent 
very many times during the night, her work 
alternating severally from indoor to outdoor, 
while the distance she covers is quite sur- 
prising. One, gifted with a healthy curiosity, 
attached a pedometer and found she had 
walked a little over sixteen miles in the 
night. 

Pathways have been made and planks 
laid down between each marquee, but French 
mud would defy Macadam's very ghost. 
We have had nights when wind and rain have 
raged and lashed, when our hurricanes have 
blown out directly we have lifted the tent 
flaps to go out, when we have been splashed 
to the knees with mud, when even our 
elastic-strapped sou'westers have blown off, 
when the rain has stung our cheeks like whip- 
cord until finally with the desperation, the 
resource, the delightful disregard for personal 
appearance common to O.A.S. conditions, and 
owing to the urgency of our need, we have 
made of our skirts a pair of trousers by 
pinning down the middle, have stuffed the 
end of these " garments " into the tops of our 
274 



NIGHT NURSING WITH THE B.E.F. 

gum boots, tied on our sou'westers with a 
bandage, and then got along much more 
quickly, of course. 

The resource and ingenuity of one sister 
who nursed infectious cases in a camp of 
small marquees situated in what had once 
been an orchard, and who to meet the 
exigencies of her somewhat amphibious work, 
had a wet-and-wintry-weather skirt made 
from a ground-sheet, could not be adequately 
acclaimed. 

The rain is occasionally responsible for 
some few strenuous minutes. Thus the other 
night a sudden gust of wind accompanied 
by driving rain burst open the dual outside 
doors of a hut, the dual inside doors leading 
to the theatre, and also several windows. 

I ran to close the doors snatching up on 
my way two green-lined umbrellas which 
figure in sun- cure cases. These I gave to 
men with limbs on extensions, and whose 
beds could not be moved immediately. 
Much amused they were to lie in bed with an 
open umbrella at two o'clock in the morning. 

Beds were drawn out to escape open 
windows or a leaking roof, mackintosh sheets 

275 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

placed on beds that could not be drawn aside 
until the orderly could be summoned, bowls 
placed to catch the drippings from the roof, 
then help was obtained and the two cases of 
beds plus extension apparatus had to be 
dealt with. 

Night duty during winter weather is some- 
what of a Dantesque affair alternating be- 
tween an inferno of cold and work- filled, 
perhaps grief-laden, patches of light. The 
marquees are very cosy, tightly-laced 
blankets wherever doors occur, and stoves 
cheerily filled. Between each marquee one 
dodges up to the knees in snow and slush 
buffeted by wind and sleet, and dipping under 
the eaves of the snow-laden tents with ill- 
luck as dogged as in tilting the bucket. In 
the surgical tents, where dressings have 
sometimes to be done every four, and some- 
times every two hours, one develops into a 
quick-change artiste at shedding and donn- 
ing garments. 

The normal outfit of a night nurse on 
winter duty consists of woollen garments 
piled on cocoon-like under her dress, a jersey 
over the dress and under the apron or overall, 
276 



NIGHT NURSING WITH THE B.E.F. 

another jersey above the apron, a greatcoat, 
two pairs of stockings, service boots or gum 
boots with a pair of woolly soles, a sou' 
wester, mittens or gloves (perhaps both) 
and a scarf. 

But there are other nights, nights of 
spring and early autumn with sheets of 
streaming, silver moonlight when not a breath 
stirs. The tent walls are rolled back, and 
looking down the alley of marquees one can 
see way down to the silent valley below, 
nights of radiant, faultless beauty bringing 
to mind Omar Khayyam's stanza, and Mat- 
thew Arnold's " Apollo Musagetes," nights at 
one with peace and meditation or with 
nightingales and love, but with foul carnage 
and blood lust, man's enmity and man's 
agony No ! 

Once on a time I held the extraordinary 
opinion that night nursing was dull, that all 
the nurse did was to arrange the patients' 
pillows, give a few sleeping draughts, hot 
drinks, hot water bottles, an occasional dose 
of cough mixture, put out a light or two, 
shade others, and sit down to do a little 
sewing to prevent her being bored before 

277 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

morning came, and the patients were to be 
washed, and beds made. 

That, by the way, was in the days before 
the war, when I had no acquaintance with 
ghastly wounds which require dressing every 
two hours, when the multiple-wound case 
was the exception and not the rule, when a 
ward which was then considered acute we 
should now regard as full of " convalescents," 
when cerebral hernia, tracheotomy, trephine, 
colotomy, laparotomy, and the evil-smelling 
gas gangrene were comparative rarities, and 
certainly not to be found in any one batch 
of patients, when convoys were unknown, 
and there was no possibility of the tent- door 
being pushed aside in the middle of the night, 
and new patients in the form of pain- wearied 
men in dirty khaki being deposited on one's 
beds. 

My introduction to active service night 
nursing was a small hut under the same roof 
as the theatre, a few of the more anxious 
cases being brought there for special watching. 

Poor boys, almost every patient in addition 
to other wounds and injuries, had had a leg 
amputated, and I used to go round from one 
278 



NIGHT NURSING WITH THE B.E.F. 

to another in the dimly-lighted ward with an 
electric torch, and flash on the light to see 
that each stump was correct and there was no 
sign of haemorrhage. 

With regard to work on " the lines," so far 
from being dull, one is kept ceaselessly busy, 
for, in addition to dressings, many four- 
hourly foments, four-hourly charts, perio- 
dical stimulants and feeds, the latter in- 
cluding jaw-cases where the mouth must be 
syringed and washed and the india-rubber 
tube attached to the feeding-cup cleaned and 
boiled, there comes the unending, infinitely 
pathetic call of " Sister, sister, may I 
have . . . ' a drink, my pillows moved, 
my heel rubbed, now my toe, my splint 
moved, my bandage tightened, my bandage 
slackened, the tent or the window closed 
or opened a blanket off, a blanket on, a 
hot- water bag, a drink of water, of lemonade, 
of hot milk, of hot tea, now a cold drink, 
sister, to cool my mouth, a crease taken out 
of the under-sheet, the air-pillow altered, my 
hands and face washed, my lips rubbed with 
ointment, my fan, that fly killed, a match, 
a cigarette lighted, another drink, some 

279 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

grapes, my apple peeled, a cushion under 
my arm, under my back, a pad of cotton- 
wool under my heel, knee, arm, a bed sock 
put on, the bed-clothes tucked in, I feel sick, 
I can't go to sleep. Shall I have an 
antiseptic, the almost invariable name for 
anaesthetic, " to-morrow when my wound 
is dressed ? " Then when the gamut is 
exhausted" What time is it ? " " What 
kind of weather is it ? " " Can't I have a 
prick, sister ? Can't I have a comforter ? " 
(hypodermic injection). " Ask the M.O. 
when he comes." 

There are times too, when one hurriedly 
tiptoes along the ward at the mention of 
" Sister " only to find that it is not a call for 
help, but merely a patient talking in his 
sleep. 

Oh, the glad pleasure and the relieved 
happiness occasioned by a goodly orchestra 
of many - sounding, many - toned snores I 
Then one feels that one's " boys " are at 
last in comfort and at ease. No wonder so 
many poets have chosen sleep as their theme, 
for an inestimably precious gift it is to the 
over-wrought, pain-wracked body. Cases of 
280 



NIGHT NURSING WITH THE B.E.F. 

insomnia are fairly infrequent with us, for 
the boys are usually " dog-tired " by trench 
life, which, with its myriad dangers, has 
developed among our men the restless, 
broken, fitful sleep of the hunted animal. 
So our boys either sleep exhaustedly, the 
sleep of complete physical weariness, or they 
sleep brokenly. Thus the R.F.C. boy flies 
busily each night, invariably in trouble about 
gauge or propeller or because " she is sulky 
and kicks." The Canadian admonishes a 
rebuke presumably to another Canadian. 
" Don't swear so much, mate. There'll be a 
curse brought down on the place if you swear 
so much." Meanwhile the Corporal is " get- 
ting the wind up," in dire distress because 
the rations are not getting through. 

" Sister, I've lost my letter and two bottles 
of stout," calls out a delirious patient. 
" We'll find them to-morrow when it is 
light." " Sister, where is my shrapnel hel- 
met ? That man washed himself in it, and 
never gave me it back." " I got it from him, 
and it's in your locker now." " Sister, 
aren't the stretcher bearers coming ? Aren't 
they ever coming ? Oh, look, sister, some- 

281 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

body's going to get hold of me. They're 
nearly up to me. I can't stand up for my 
leg. Somebody's tied my feet. Where's 
my rifle ? He's got me, he's got me, and I 
haven't my rifle ... Oh God ! ... Oh, 
my leg. Oh, for a taste of good sweet water. 
Mate, your hands are free, and I can't bear 
this. Shoot me, mate, shoot me." 

" Died in hospital." " What a pity," say 
some people, " that he was brought the 
journey just to die." But it was not a pity 
at all. Friends of men who have died in 
hospital have the great consolation of know- 
ing that they had a comfortable bed, drinks 
for which they crave, at will. They were 
warm and well tended, and they had most 
blessed of all ! drugs. Thank God there is 
opium and omnopon and morphia to still 
such delirium as the above. 

Naturally, we have had nights never-to- 
be-forgotten, nights of aching anxiety and 
grim, gruesome tragedy, nights that have 
seared themselves into our brain for as long 
a time as we shall possess human knowledge 
and human understanding, nights when we 
have shared and suffered with delirious 
282 




A NIGHT BIRD 



NIGHT NURSING WITH THE B.E.F. 

patients the stench, the choking thirst, the 
sound of groans, all the devilish horror and 
wracking torture of living again the eternal 
age with its waiting, waiting, waiting in No 
Man's Land, nights when a dying man on 
whom morphia has had no effect has per- 
sistently cackled ragtime while another, one 
of the very, very few who have realised they 
are in the Valley of the Shadow, reiterated 
again and again " I'm dying, I'm dying, I'm 
dying." 

There are moments, too, that have seemed 
a life's span, tense moments when we have 
fought for a life with strychnine, morphia, 
salines, nutrients, and hot-water bottles, 
crowded moments when, our lamps throwing 
Rembrandt shadows and gleams round the 
dark tent with its rows of huddled, maimed 
forms, there has been plugged and stemmed a 
haemorrhage from a place where the surgeon 
could not ligature, reverential moments when 
one has stood wiping the dew from the face, 
taking the clutching hand that perpetually 
seeks to hold to something, moistening the 
lips of him who is passing through the Valley 
of the Shadow. One's eyes smart and feel 

285 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

filled with salt as a man with life ebbing, 
oh ! so painfully quickly, grasps one's hand 
and says " Sister, God bless you." The full 
meaning of the remark arrests one, its sanc- 
tity, its solemnity, the benedictory significance 
of the words spoken under such circumstances 
engulf one. It is not as the smug person 
would say one feels amply rewarded for 
what one has done. Not at all. One only 
feels so utterly unworthy and mean and 
small. 

But the longest night ends and joy cometh 
with the morning. The restless tossings have 
ceased, the breathing is soft arid regular. The 
dew-laden air accentuates the foetid smell 
of the wounds. I go to the door of the 
marquee to roll back the walls, and I lean 
for a moment against the bamboo pole, a 
surge of emotions overpowering me aching 
pity, immeasurable sadness, a sense of 
human limitations often indeed human 
impotence. Then the joy of success, the 
transcendent happiness of helping to snatch 
back a life from the Gates of Death. 

And there afar and unwavering, a pale 
primrose star, the inky darkness giving way 
286 



NIGHT NURSING WITH THE B.E.F. 

to a soft grey-blue silver-lined, then a pink 
flush heralding a thousand shafts of ruddy, 
glowing light, and rosy as our hopes, 
radiant with promise there breaks the 
Dawn. 



287 



CHAPTER XXVII 
UNDER CANVAS 

FOLLOWING on the coming of the American 
units to our neighbourhood, we have had 
quite an influx of nurses, and had to give 
bed and breakfast accommodation to so 
many other passing guests, that almost half 
of our staff are again under canvas. I 
fortunately am among the tented crowd. I 
say " fortunately " for the weather is most 
friendly indeed, it is ideal canvas weather. 
A " canvas existence " is great fun. It 
has its pros and its cons, but the pros are so 
delightful as to outweigh the cons, especially 
when these latter are made light of with 
true active service philosophy. The dog 
walks into the bell-tent in the middle of the 
night and rudely awakes one by vigorously 
licking one's face, and exhibiting other un- 
seemly symptoms of canine affection. The 
288 



UNDER CANVAS 

bantam proclaims about 3 a.m. that he is 
roosting on the foot of one's bed, by violently 
crowing in a piercing falsetto, an unappre- 
ciated solo, from which he refuses to desist 
even though he has hurled at him a damp 
sponge, a rolled-up knot of a handkerchief, 
a comb, an orange, and many a " Shoo, 
Christopher, shoo, you little wretch ! " 

Field mice scuttle across the doors on early 
morning travels as we dress, insects always 
and perpetually hold high revel, earwigs are 
discovered holding a confab in the folds of 
one's apron, while one nurse is found asleep 
with a lighted candle in her tent No, she 
isn't ill, only left on the light to scare the 
rats. 

Yes, it is ideal canvas weather, weather 
when it is delightful to lie in bed at night and 
gaze through leafy, high acacias to a far, far, 
interminably far, blue-black, star-studded 
sky. It is delightful to pause for a few hours 
in the rapid whirl of a crowded life, and watch 
a grey mauve twilight linger over a Corot 
landscape. It is delightful to lie and watch 
the soft, gold light of the early sun spangling 
innumerable diamond dewdrops. It is de- 

T 289 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

lightful to hear the rain pattering on tent 
roof, and to smell the good smell of refreshed 
green things and damp earth. 

It is not quite so delightful, however, to be 
awakened in the wee, small hours by the rain 
pattering on one's face, to be obliged to get 
up hurriedly, scramble into slippers and 
raincoat, and go out sleepily and stammer- 
ingly into the darkness to fumble and fasten 
down tent ropes and tent flaps, which latter 
have been well turned back because the 
evening was originally so warm. 

Then, too, it is not quite so delightful to 
find the rain invading the tent and again 
pattering on one's face, especially when two 
people are sleeping in a bell-tent, and the 
opportunities of evasion are thus halved. 
For the geometrical fact rarely finds more 
graphic demonstration than in this particular 
application, half a bell-tent is considerably 
less than a whole. Still, what would you ? 
A leaky bell-tent is not so bad as a leaky 
dug-out. 

It is somewhat in the nature of a drawback, 
too, to go on duty on a beautifully fine morn- 
ing, and to come back after a drenching 
290 



UNDER CANVAS 

shower to find one end of the bed sodden, to 
see a pair of shoes with a little pool of water 
in the ball of each foot, it will be days before 
they dry, and to make the pleasing dis- 
covery that the rain has been joyously 
cannonading on one's best outdoor uniform. 

Leaves, spiders and wood bugs in one's 
wash and bath water are frequent occur- 
rences, while overnight the acacia leaves 
flutter upon one's face and hair with persis- 
tent, babies-in-the-wood effort. Towards 
creeping things one grows to an amazing 
tolerance, indeed, to a live-and-let-live non- 
chalance, a mild interest which would have 
astounded one in pre-war days. For what is 
the use of killing a busy, little, shining, black 
chap of a beetle as he skuds across the tent 
floor ? Nature is so bountiful that she 
breeds for a higher rate of mortality than 
we can ever inflict. So even though we 
squash with the heel of our slipper every 
spider, earwig, wood-louse, and beetle we saw 
that would not ensure our immunity from 
invasion, nor our clothes being free of others 
when we take them down from the tent-peg. 

Instead, we let them get on with that tremen- 

291 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

dous business called life and give preliminary 
inspection of our clothes before dressing. 

Life in a bell-tent is very circumscribed 
and circumvented. Though one possess ever 
so little wealth, wardrobe or worldly goods, 
still is it difficult to encompass all including 
camp-bed, camp-bath, basin, chair and a 
trunk within a floor space whose radius is 
six feet. And TT r* minus a tent-peg wholly 
and completely surrounded by a collection 
of dressing-gowns, overalls, coats, skirts, 
mackintoshes and great coats, is a very 
tight fit. When, moreover, one shares the 
bell-tent with a second person, one at times 
comes to the conclusion that the world is too 
much with us, and it is just a little difficult 
to love one's neighbour as one's self. 

Life under canvas is a very public affair, a 
very free and easy affair. It is surprising 
what a barrier is swept aside when one doesn't 
possess a door. I can only suppose Diogenes 
had a lid to his tub, otherwise I can't con- 
ceive how he managed to philosophise. For 
life under canvas is very provocative of 
conviviality. 

All and sundry passers-by see one seated 
292 




PETTICOAT LANE 



UNDER CANVAS 

within the wigwam and pause for conversa- 
tion, which invariably gets drawn out, and 
just as invariably gets extended to im- 
promptu hospitality. The entertaining is 
alfresco. Usually the guests overflow on to 
the grass at the door of the tent. A stove 
burns, merrily boiling water for coffee, two 
girls sit sewing in deck chairs. One pores 
industriously and disgustedly over some 
darning. Two sit on the floor of the tent 
with arms round their knees, and looking 
like two little Hindoo idols 

Darkness is falling. A candle in a hanging 
lantern is lighted within the tent. The warm 
glow of candle light, the cosy glow of the 
stove, the grouping, the triangular outline 
of the tent, the background of acacias, the 
dull grey-blue, silver-streaked sky, the effect 
is charming. 

The hostess calls across offering a cup of 
coffee, to be met with the unfailing, active 
service affirmative. 

" Thanks awfully but bring it across, old 
dear. I'm in bed reading how the war is 
progressing," the only uninterrupted time 
one gets for the deed. 

295 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

Numerous good -nights by and bye are 
exchanged and return invitations are being 
issued. 

" Do come round to see me, I'm No. 8, 
Petticoat Lane." 

" Come in to coffee to-morrow night. I'm 
the centrepiece in the Gutter." 

" You haven't been round to my place for 
ages. I've moved to Piccadilly you know, No. 2. 

" Oh, by the way did you hear about our 
moving ? We two were in a bell-tent under 
the trees, and some casual mention was made 
of its being a damp spot, but we heard 
nothing further. 

" Last night we went for a walk into the 
forest, and on coming back at the end of an 
hour were electrified to find the only home we 
possessed had gone, been moved stock, stone, 
and barrel, and not so much as a piece of 
paper or a circle of flattened grass to show 
where it had been. 

" However, it was no use being dumb- 
founded, so we set off on a tour round the 
quarters and finally discovered it with furni- 
ture and equipment complete. Funny thing 
when one's home goes wandering." 
296 



CHAPTER XXVIII 
ACTIVE SERVICE KITCHENS 

44 1 COULDN'T nurse, but I could cook," several 
women have said to me when I have been on 
leave in England. " Tell me something about 
the cooking, and what are the kitchens like ? " 

The kitchen of a hospital housed in a build- 
ing which has previously been, say, a seminary, 
or convent, or chateau, is, of course, the 
kitchen attached to the building, enlarged, 
probably, and equipped more or less well. 

The kitchen of a camp hospital usually 
consists of a w r ooden roof and a square of 
cement. On the latter are placed the stoves, 
with tables adjacent, and with a row of 
boilers near. 

Round the stoves and along by the boilers 
a wooden wall is erected to keep off draughts. 
Quite probably the rest of the kitchen will 
be left open, a welcome and necessary condi- 

297 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

tion of affairs in summer, when a few ground 
sheets will successfully combat any showers. 

During the winter the kitchen will probably 
be temporarily boarded in. A little wooden 
hut will act as larder if no other more per- 
manent building be near. Our mess kitchen 
is an example of the utilisation of existing 
buildings. It consists of two, open-fronted, 
loose boxes formerly used for horses. One 
acts as larder, while in the other are accommo- 
dated a stove, table, and a boiler for hot 
water. 

Any woman used to a " well-equipped 
kitchen," a term which often includes 
shining rows of innumerable and unnecessary 
pots and pans, patent utensils, special storage 
jars and elaborately made storage boxes, 
would be immediately impressed with the 
austere bareness, and the outstanding 
sparsity of things in a camp kitchen. But 
" active service " is a term to be translated 
quite literally and to be given the most com- 
prehensive of meanings. 

A utensil is an article to be extensively 
utilized, and if its use does not justify a 
strenuous existence it is promptly dumped, 
298 



ACTIVE SERVICE KITCHENS 

for its space is more valuable than its pre- 
sence. Thus the boilers are busy night and 
day not merely boiling water, but also acting 
as porridge pots, stock pots, soup pans and 
pudding pans. The circumscribed kitchen, 
too, is the scene of much crowded activity, 
for here thousands of meals are cooked per 
day, hundreds of men supplied with porridge 
and tea for breakfast, a certain number of 
eggs cooked and rashers of bacon fried, 
several hundreds of pints of soup made for 
dinner, meat and fresh vegetables prepared 
and cooked, milk or suet or bread pudding 
cooked for some hundreds of men, a great 
quantity of " milk-rice " boiled for the 
" milk-diet " patients, a certain number of 
minced and boiled chicken diets supplied, a 
certain number of custard puddings made, 
probably a number of fish diets prepared, and 
several pints of beef tea made. 

In the afternoon barley water, more cooked 
fish, cooked eggs, and some hundreds of 
pints of tea will be supplied, while in the 
evening a similar quantity of cocoa will be in 
demand. Meantime, preparations for the 
next morning's breakfast and dinner will be 

299 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

proceeding apace, while emergency meals for 
convoy patients, stews, soups, tea or cocoa, 
may be required at very short notice. 

The responsibility for securing supplies 
rests with the quartermaster. His is the 
task of ensuring the presence of great quan- 
tities of tins of milk, tins of jam, chests of 
tea, boxes of sugar, bags of rice and cereals, 
thousands of loaves of bread, tins of beef and 
vegetables, baskets of fresh vegetables, 
rounds and joints of fresh meat, gallons of 
fresh milk, stones of fresh fruit, boxes of 
dried fruits, tins of butter, crates of fresh 
eggs, and a very host of other things. 

The quartermaster is not a popular person 
in the Army, for it is his business to detect 
and prevent waste, extravagance, ill-use of 
articles, and the dumping of the same before 
their usefulness is exhausted, the latter a 
very vexed question on which there are quite 
frequently two opinions. Particularly is the 
quartermaster unpopular on issue days and at 
inventory times, during which latter equip- 
ment inspection takes place, and one's bald 
brooms and brushes are laid out in naked 
shamefulness, they are bald in their very 
300 



ACTIVE SERVICE KITCHENS 

earliest youth from stress of life ! one's 
little secret stores of linen and hardware 
treasures dragged into the light of day, and 
hidden recesses ruthlessly invaded and just 
as ruthlessly plundered. 

At most times, however, the quartermaster, 
like the banker, reminds one of the phrase in 
the prayer-book. He is an ever-present help 
in time of trouble. A camp hospital is put 
up on a piece of bare ground, probably some 
miles from a town, and the quartermaster's 
department acts as a dry-goods-grocery- 
drapery-coal-restaurant-medical stores. Beds, 
bedding, and bed linen are required, 
the Q.M. Knives, forks, table necessities, 
cooking utensils, the Q.M. Cradles, baths, 
instruments, lotions, drugs, the Q.M. 
Chairs, lockers, tables, nails, screws, hammers, 
the Q.M. Stationery, pens, ink, gum, 
the Q.M. who dispenses the two latter, by 
the way, in powder form. Just try to lead a 
Robinson Crusoe existence in a corner of a 
back garden, and an idea will be gained 
of where the quartermaster's work begins, 
though never of where it ends. 



301 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

w You are interested in kitchens," said the 
Colonel of a base depot in France. " Come 
and I'll show you mine." So we went to 
two, large, wooden huts. 

" I don't know whether it was justfiable 
pride or positive conceit which underlies this 
invitation, but I am very pleased to have had 
it," I remarked as I looked round, for the 
kitchens were beautiful, spotlessly clean, 
exquisitely tidy and admirably well-ordered, 
though at the time, some thousands of 
dinners were being prepared. 

The centre of the kitchen was occupied by 
stoves and some boilers, the asphalted floor 
round the bottom of the stoves being edged 
with whitewash, a device which had its 
effective appearance as well as its utilitarian 
purpose. Round the walls, liberally orna- 
mented with cuttings from the illustrated 
papers of girls and girls' faces, by the way, 
were wooden benches scrupulously clean and 
boasting a few, highly polished, storage jars 
which had their origin in biscuit tins. 

The dinner which was being cooked con- 
sisted of a most deliciously smelling stew 
made from the Army ration of mixed 
302 



ACTIVE SERVICE KITCHENS 

vegetables and meat, supplemented with 
fresh onions, carrots and suet dumplings. 
Many roasts of beef were being cooked in 
the ovens, some boilers were occupied with 
the cooking of beans, and others with the 
boiling of rice, which was subsequently to 
be served with treacle. 

The menus for the past week were written 
on a sheet of paper pinned to the door of 
the larder. They made interesting reading, 
and were at least one tribute to the marvel- 
lous excellence of British organization, that 
target at which so many spitefully-aimed, 
and stupidly-directed, little pebbles are 
thrown. 

The breakfast each morning had consisted 
of tea, bread, fried bacon, boiled bacon, or 
boiled ham, and, on two mornings of the 
week, potted meat, and on a third, ris- 
soles in addition. 

Tea each day had consisted of tea, bread, 
cheese and butter, or cheese and jam, with 
Saturday's and Sunday's meal augmented 
with potted meat. Supper consisted of soup 
and bread or biscuits, of butter, cheese and 
biscuits or bread, with tea or cocoa. 

303 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 



The dinner menus for the week were as 
follows : 



Monday. 



Tuesday. 



Wednesday. 



Thursday. 



Roast mutton 

Meat pies 

Cauliflower 

Mixed vegetable ration 

Rice puddings 

Biscuits. 

Boiled mutton 

Roast mutton 

Stew 

Mixed vegetable ration 

Suet pudding 

Biscuits. 

Roast beef 

Boiled mutton 

Mixed vegetable ration 

Jam roll 

Biscuits. 

Roast mutton 

Boiled mutton 

Cauliflower 

Mixed vegetable ration 

Rice pudding 

Biscuits. 



304 



ACTIVE SERVICE KITCHENS 

Friday. Roast mutton 

Boiled mutton 
Carrots 

Mixed vegetable ration 
Suet pudding 
Rice pudding 
Biscuits. 

Saturday. Roast beef 
Sea pie 
Stew 
Carrots 

Mixed vegetable ration 
Biscuits. 

Sunday. Boiled beef 

Roast mutton 

Boiled onions 

Mixed vegetable ration 

Dumplings 

Rice pudding 

Biscuits. 



Among newcomers in a neighbouring 
garage one day was another type of kitchen 
and as it was a bird of passage I went to see 
it then and there. 

U 305 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

It was a motor field kitchen which was 
being driven to a part of the French line, and 
was a gift from some Scottish body, whose 
name escapes my memory, to the Anglo- 
French Red Cross. 

A very handsome and useful present it was, 
too. The body of the car was built, of course, 
in the style of a van. Every inch of space 
was utilised thoroughly effectually, its re- 
stricted space and condensed utility being 
reminiscent of a restaurant car or ship's 
kitchen. 

At the end behind the driver was a cooking 
stove enclosing two ringed jets supplied with 
gas made in an attached cylinder. On top 
of the stove were two large urns fitted with 
taps, on an adjacent shelf a few dripping 
tins, frying pans and other cooking utensils. 

No attempt, of course, could be made to 
roast or fry on anything like an extensive 
scale, boiling and stewing, that most econo- 
mical form of cooking, being intended for 
usual f adoption. A sink and tap claimed 
admiration and the spontaneous question 
regarding the water supply. That, it seemed, 
came from a tank accommodated on the roof. 
306 



ACTIVE SERVICE KITCHENS 

Two benches ran along either side of the 
car lengthwise, a door being at the end, and 
having a half section to open and with a 
small u counter " attached. Overhead and 
under the benches were excellent, little cup- 
boards, one being on the drawer principle 
for the reception of towels, and such supply 
of linen as the kitchen might boast. A 
window and the usual electric fittings pro- 
vided light, and, as we looked round in very 
emphatic feminine appreciation of the 
elimination of the unnecessary, and the in- 
clusion of everything that was required, 
still we gazed and still our wonder grew that 
one small car could carry so much that was 
commendable. 



307 



CHAPTER XXIX 
MY DIARY AGAIN 

MISS - RANK Nurse 

CORPS V.A.D. HOSPITAL Z General 

has been granted fourteen days' leave from 



N.B. She should report her arrival in writing to 
the Matron-in-Chief, War Office, London, S.W., 
immediately on arrival in England, on attached form. 

Signed - 
H.Q., I.G.C., Colonel D.D.M.S., 

31.10.16 forDM.S.,LofC. 

THE above typewritten message delivered 
me one bleak autumn morning sends me 
into a condition bordering on a paroxysm 
of joy, not that I am pleased to leave my 
work and the boys, but that, after almost 
thirteen very full and busy months' work, 
I long, as do most other people, to go home 
and for a fortnight be luxuriously spoiled. 
808 



MY DIARY AGAIN 

Here, there are so many demands on one's 
pity, one's womanliness, one's protection, 
one's self-reliance, that one becomes a little 
exhausted and glad to return for a few days 
to the free and somewhat careless existence 
of pre-war days. 

In addition to a warrant to travel issued 
to " H.M. Forces Overseas (in Uniform)," 
I receive also A.F.W. 3337 this presumably 
is to be an alphabetical progress of mine 
and learn that it is strictly forbidden to 
take on leave bombs, shells, shell-cases, 
trophies captured from the Enemy, and 
Uncensored Letters, that it is my duty to 
give no information of a military nature to 
any one while on leave in England, and that 
I am to have the M.L.O. or R.T.O. vouch 
for any delay of journey. 

I pack in incredibly short time, join two 
other V.A.D.s, and we set off. We interview 
the R.T.O. , and receive an ordre de transport 
pour V expedition d'Armee Anglais, a very 
imposing affair of impressive hue and corre- 
sponding size. Among the Effectif, Materiel 
et Approvisionnements is a class that interests 
us, being the Nature du transport. Here we 

309 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

find that, under the heading of officiers, 
sous-officiers, et soldats, there isn't room to 
write trois infirmieres, so we are classified 
on the next line with the chevaux et mulcts. 

This is by way of being as good as a 
Canadian's story of the company commander 
who wanted some goods transported, and 
who gave directions that if mules were not 
available, the matter had to be placed in 
the hands of a party of intelligent N.C.O.s. 

The train by and by meanders into the 
station, and we climb from the depths of 
the railway line to the heights of a compart- 
ment. Some English officers help us to 
settle our luggage. We thank them and 
chatter idly among ourselves. One of the 
officers asks us how we would like the 
window, closed or open. We tell him, and 
return to our conversation. Another asks 
us if we object to smoking. We state 
our wishes, and resume our conversation. 
Another asks us if the heating of the com- 
partment is rather excessive. We reply, 
and then retire to our own conversation. 
Finally, after a time one of the officers 
blurts out : 
810 



MY DIARY AGAIN 

" Do talk to us, won't you ? We haven't 
spoken to an English girl for months." 

So we all laugh, and the conversation 
becomes general until we reach the port of 
embarkation, when we bid good-bye to our 
khaki companions, ships that pass in the 
night. 

On board we seek dinner or its nearest 
approximation, and to the usual query of 
" What have you ? " we receive the reply, 
" Pressed beef " and we have had bully 
five days out of the past seven ! " cold 
roast beef, ham, and tongue." For a second 
course we ask for " something sweet," and 
are brought the only article available, jam ! 
plum and apple ! ! 

After our meal we go to our cabins, where 
the other V.A.D.s and I are so impressed 
and intimidated by Hunnish frightfulness, 
and the exceeding power and omnipresence 
of Hunnish submarines, that we undress, 
go to bed and sleep soundly until, about 
8.30 a.m., the overhead voice says : 
" We're not moving." 
" No," the other inmate of the cabin 
drowsily agrees. 

311 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

44 Look out and see what is the matter," 
coaxes the upper voice. 

" Look out yourself," impolitely suggests 
the drowsy voice. 

" But I can't get out so easily as you," 
remonstrates the upper voice. 

" Oh, it's all right. Otherwise we would 
have been torpedoed by now. Go to sleep." 

And we sleep steadily until the stewardess 
awakes us. We breakfast, have our warrants 
examined, jolt happily down the gangway, 
and into the waiting train. Then on, past 
copse and hedgerow, by hill and hollow, 
through little valleys which are a riot, a 
superb glory of reds and russets, gold and 
brown. Here is the black-green of fir and 
pine, the honey gold and bronze of bracken, 
the sapgreen of turnip patch, the rich deep 
brown of overturned earth, the chrome yellow 
of gorse, then a ribbon of water edged by 
feathery, silver- stemmed birches, and, yes, 
really a golf course. How topping to be 

home again ! 

* * * 

We positively have battalions of rats out 
here. Awfully impertinent and daring they 
312 



MY DIARY AGAIN 

are, too, drink out of the fire-buckets in 
the daytime, sniff round the bread-bin, and 
generally comport themselves in defiant 
manner. Last night I was massaging a 
patient when a rat scurried over my toes. 
Another night I went to the food cupboard 
after dark. It is an alcove in the marquee, 
and I felt something more velvety than the 
canvas wall brush my hand. It was a 
retreating rat ! 

Extraordinary how intense is the interest 
men can whip up over a rat hunt. The 
medical ward master occasionally brings his 
ferrets and puts them under the tent floors. 
Then sundry fox-terriers and any other 
available mongrels stand round backed by 
patients in all stages of convalescence, order- 
lies, sisters, and M.O.s, biggest babies of all. 
There is much yapping and excitement, 
much handling and gripping of brooms and 
sticks, tent mallets and garden scissors. 
Yells of execration go up when the rats 
run out, squealing, to meet their fate. And 
nothing short of the cookhouse bugle brings 

the game to a close. 

* * * 

313 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

Got a lift by motor- ambulance from town 
to-day ; we were a mixed bag. Sitting 
beside the driver were two sisters. A V.A.D. 
was sitting on the knee of the outer one, 
and I was sitting on a box beside the clutch, 
brake, and reverse pedals. In the car was 
a tremendous Brass-hat, " very metal polish," 
as the boys would say, a corporal, two 
privates, three baskets of fresh vegetables 

and two bundles of laundry. 

* * * 

We are all rather sorry for ourselves to- 
day. We've been taking inventories " suf- 
ferance is the badge of all our tribe." For 
we have been slow to realise that a dust- 
bin is classified as a Bin Ash movable, a 
folding hospital arm-chair comes under the 
heading of Chairs Arm HP Fdg, a mirror 
under Glasses Looking HP, a string door- 
mat under Mats Door Coir, and an enamelled 
dinner-plate under Plates Dinner End. . . . 
A primrose by the river's brim might have 
been a simple primrose to Peter Bell, but 
if that famous rustic had been in the Army 
he would have needed to be more explicit. 
Thus, a finger-nail brush he would have 
314 



MY DIARY AGAIN 

had to describe as a Brush Ward Nail. 
Precept, too, teaches us to call a spade a 
spade, but the Army requires us to name 
a hearth shovel as a Shovel Fire Hand. 

No, it isn't red tape. It is one of the 
first essentials in an Army, precision. It 
is an excellent and very necessary precaution 
against vague and slovenly wording, which 
would inevitably incur loss, the duplicating 
of articles, and much preventable wastage 

of time and money. 

* * * 

Just now among the patients we have a 
Russian, a member of the Canadian Army. 
His name abounds in z, s, k, and y, and 
other sneezy combinations of letters, but, 
as he pronounces it, it has a slight resem- 
blance to " Charlie," so Charlie he is called. 

His language is a most amusing jumble of 
English, French, and American all broken, 
broken sometimes to veriest bits. 

He is evidently a great fighter, has been 
through the Russo-Japanese campaign, and 
has the clasp of St. George, first, second 
and third class, besides other decorations. 
He loves bombs and machine-guns, and 

31T 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

lies imitating the kerer-kerer-kerer-kerer-r-r- 
r-er whenever he hears the sound. The 
bayonet, too, he adores. 

" Fritzy alway 4 Merci, kamerad.' Yuh, 
me alway Fritzy stick. Nahpoo, goot-bye, 
finee Fritzy." 

44 Forty-fours " is " Charlie's " designation 
of drill, otherwise " Form Fours." 

44 Forty-fours awlri' peace time. No fa* 
warr. Mills bomb, Lewis, kerrupp, kerrupp, 
kerrerer, pop-pop-pop war time. Me no 
prisoner take. Yuh ! me Fritzy stick. Uggh, 
ouch ! " and he rolls his eyes and puts out 
his tongue in just a little too realistic a 
manner. 

One hand-to-hand encounter with a Boche 
he so described : 

44 Me Fritzy throat try catch. Fritzy of 
me the fingers eat " the Boche had bitten 
him. 44 Me Fritzy jaw with both hands 
pull. Fritzy ouch, uck ! Jaw brok." Then 
as a little French blanchisseuse trips along 
the highway with a bundle of laundry : 

44 Soam swell chicken, that." 

44 Me sick, ma warch sick," he assured 
us one day when his watch had lost time. 
818 



MY DIARY AGAIN 

" Me nar goot. Sick soldier nar goot. For 
soldier want husky guy. Me much sick. 
Me swing leat, nar. Two blarnkets, wootten 
cross, finee," though his despondency was 
not deep enough to prevent him from 
admonishing a youth, -with whose opinion 
on some matter he did not agree, in choicest 
Russo-Americanese : 

" Hang crep on yar noase. Yar brain's 

deat." 

* * * 

The night staff, who, of course, sleep 
during the day, have given the day people 
a hint of quietude by posting on their hut 
a little notice on the lines of the famous 
caution from the French Government : 

" Taisez-vous. Mefiez-vous," it reads. " Les 
oreilles dormants vous 6coutent." 



The orderlies had a farewell supper to- 
night before being disbanded on account 
of the Americans taking over the hospital. 

They came to the officers' mess to serenade, 
sang " Auld Lang Syne," " He's a jolly good 
fellow," and, and this was very sweet of 

319 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

them, "When you come to the end of a 
perfect day." 

The latter appealed to me, more especially 
as I heard to-day, rather strangely for the 
first time, that our hospital has the reputa- 
tion of being a very happy one, and that 
it is remarked for the good fellowship and 
excellent working tone which exists between 
all its members, sisters, medical officers, 
orderlies, and outside staff. This, of course, 
is due to our having the very best and 
kindest of matrons and colonels, both of 
whom know how r to get done thoroughly 
efficient work in a thoroughly pleasant 
manner. And that is a gift vouchsafed 
only to few. Every one is made to feel that 
her or his work is of value and importance, 
and what an admirable spur to pleased and 

proud effort that thought does make ! 
* * * 

Went to coffee to-night at W 's, and 

there the conversation drifted to the subject 
of our sisters and their work. One, a 
Princess Christian nurse, went through the 
South African and a Balkan war. Another 
served in a couple of Balkan wars and has 
320 



MY DIARY AGAIN 

a knowledge of foreign affairs one never 
thought could exist outside the Foreign 
Office. This one, a Canadian with, mirabile 
dictu, scarcely a soupcon of an accent, is 
quite a litterateur and has a remarkable 
genius for organisation. That one went 
through a Balkan war and was a prisoner 
in the hands of the Bulgars for three months. 
Another is a New Zealander, who was led 
to take up nursing through seeing a sister 
die on their lonely ranch. 

Then there was mentioned " Little Sister," 
one of the sweetest, most charming women 
I ever met, who had been in I-don't-know- 
how-many countries, and who, of all her 
experiences, liked best the time she spent 
on a certain hospital ship in the Mediter- 
ranean. She used to tell, in particular, of 
being one Christmas Day up the Adriatic 
Sea, where at some port they encountered 
a couple of hundred Serbian refugees, frail 
women and old men, young children and 
tender babies. 

So the ship was scoured, every trunk and 
kit-bag searched for chocolate, sweets, Christ- 
mas pudding and Christmas cake just lately 

X 321 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

received from home, mufflers, stockings, 
coats, caps, anything useful that could be 
found. 

For two tiny new-born babies those 
Englishwomen had improvised little jackets 
of cotton-wool covered with gauze, after 
the style of a pneumonia jacket, and the 
mothers they had equipped with warm 
woollens from their own stock of under- 
wear. 

Then So-and-so was instanced. Such a 
grey little life she had led in a dull little 
provincial town where she had lived and 
had her training. War broke out. She 
joined the service, and was sent to work 
in a marble palace in Egypt Egypt, the 
land of sunshine, the land of colour, the 
land of a thousand antiquities, the vivid 
land, the baffling mysterious land, the fasci- 
nating, bewitching land ! 

X , too, had thirsted all her life for 

adventure, and for thirty years life had 
been totally humdrum. But when war came 
she was sent to Salonika, where the sisters 
had to live in marquees with hundreds of 
flies because bell-tents could not withstand 
322 



MY DIARY AGAIN 

the sandy winds, and where occasionally they 
had to leave the marquees for the safety of 
dug-outs because the place was being bombed. 

From there she went to a hospital ship, 
which was torpedoed, she consequently hav- 
ing to spend three hours in the sea. Her 
next sphere of activity was a C.C.S., which 
later was bombed. Life in a camp hospital 
she found somewhat tame, but we assured 
her she was such a Jonah that something 
thrilling would no doubt befall us when 
she had been long enough with us to make 
the spell work. 

Z had lived for some months on a 

barge at a time when this mode of transport 
was much used for abdominal and spinal 
cases and fractured femurs. She had been 
on one of the many hospital ships lined up 
a fleet of white and green symmetry to 
take the wounded on the evacuation from 
the Dardanelles. And the evacuation was 
managed so brilliantly that not a single 
ship was required. From there she went 
to a C.C.S. situated in a beautiful French 
chateau, from there to duty on a hospital 
train, and then she came to us. 

323 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

u It is very nice and generous of you," 
suddenly spoke a quiet member of the party, 
" to give forth such unstinted admiration 
of our pukka sisters, their adaptability and 
their ability to work under strange and 
inimical circumstances, but do let us admire 
ourselves also. The V.A.D. s are not such 
small potatoes as some people would have 
them appear. 

" Look at G . She has nursed for 

ten years, women and children's work, but 
she has not had general training. There- 
fore she is a V.A.D., and counted untrained. 

Q is half-way through her M.D. degree, 

work she left to become a V.A.D. 

" R is a qualified dispenser and nursed 

for two and a half years, her training being 
uncompleted because she had to go with her 

family to the States. W is a fully 

trained nurse, but too young to join the 
Q.A.I.M.N.S., so she has become a V.A.D. 
until she is old enough to be eligible for the 
former corps. 

" S is a duly trained and qualified 

masseuse. E has the South African 

ribbon. She was in South Africa when war 
324 



MY DIARY AGAIN 

broke out, for her father was an Army 
doctor. She nursed there in a military 
hospital until she caught typhoid. 

" And apart from nursing, the V.A.D.s 

are not purely ornamental. W , whom 

for months I never imagined capable of 
playing ' The Blue Bells of Scotland ' with 
one finger, electrified me one day by playing 
to the boys in the Y.M.C.A. Hut. Among 
other things she is an L.R.A.M. 

" Then the home-sister was getting grey 
hairs one day trying to sift out the batmen's 
off-duty time so as to be strictly fair and 

just and to please every one, when Y 

laughed and said, ' Make an arithmetical 
progression of it, old dear,' and in a minute 
she had it all accurately arranged. She's 
a no mean mathematician, it seems. 

" M , too, I noticed in the wards was 

pretty good with medicines, lotions, impro- 
vising apparatus, and generally fixing up 
things out of very little. Then one day a 
carefully guarded secret leaks out. She is 

a London B.Sc., while N is a London 

M.A. 

" I've an idea that if we laid bare the 

325 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

skeletons in more of the V.A.D. cupboards 
we should find quite a good share of brains 
attached to them. 

" And now, children, though not exhausted 
in subject, I'm tired of blowing our own 
trumpet, and, since there is nothing more 
left to eat or drink, I vote we go to bed." 



Had an afternoon of malapropisms. A 
boy wrote and told his wife he was in 
hospital with " nerve-ritis," while another 
informed me he had not had his " two 
o'clock mometer." My momentary puzzled 
expression earned the assurance that he had 
" never had the mometer at two o'clock." 
So I gave him the thermometer, and all 
was well. 

" Sister in the next hut wants to know if 
you will send her an armful of omnopon," 
was the alarming message brought me a 
little later. 

Not desiring to aid such astounding ex- 
travagance if not slaughter I gave the 
messenger an ampule, but so dissatisfied 
was he at my meagre interpretation of 
326 



MY DIARY AGAIN 

" armful," that I explained, and he went 

off, smiling broadly at himself. 

* * * 

Boarded a tram-car to-day wherein were 
seated two French girls and a British Colonial 
soldier, a Military policeman. 

For a time the girls conjectured as to what 
the " M.P." on his arm-brassard might mean 
but, failing to come to any satisfactory 
conclusion, one of them finally plucked up 
courage and ventured : 

" Qu'est-ce que c'est, m'sieu ? " 

" Oh ! that. It means ' Mam'slle Prome- 
nade.' } Then, with true colonial enterprise 
making good his opportunity, he added, 

" Will you ? " 

* * * 

The M.O. was questioning the patients 
to-day about their appetite and diet when 
one boy volunteered the information that he 
fancied a bottle of Bass and thought one 
per day would do him a world of good 

" But Bass is jolly scarce out here, boy," 
the M.O. reminded him. " I can't buy 
myself a bottle at any price, simply can't 
get it." 

327 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

" Then I'll tell you what to do, sir," came 
the quick and unabashed retort. " Put me 
on two bottles a day and I'll give you one 
for yourself." 

A general laugh, the M.O. took up the 
boy's diet sheet and wrote : 

" Stout, pints, one." 



328 



CHAPTER XXX 
A BIG PUSH JULY 1916 

"Buss was it in that dawn to be alive, but 
to be young was very heaven.' 9 

We knew what to expect. For days and 
nights past we had heard the guns cease- 
lessly cannonading. So when the batman 
woke us at six one morning with the message 
that every one was to go on duty as quickly 
as possible, we were not surprised. 

We washed, dressed, and breakfasted hur- 
riedly. It was a glorious morning with 
great glowing shafts of streaming sunlight 
warmly irradiating the camp. The tent walls 
had as usual been rolled back, thus making 
of the wards a roof and a floor. We could 
see therein a great stir and bustle, but what 
was it caused a sick pain at the heart and 
hastened our hurrying footsteps ? 

In every walk there were wounded soldiers, 

329 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

a bus-load of the more slightly wounded 
cases at one marquee, motor-ambulances 
with stretcher after stretcher of more seriously 
injured burdens bringing up the rear, men 
being carried pick-a-back by orderlies, others 
being brought on the Cfc four-handed seat," 
others trudging along with the aid of a 
walking-stick. 

Tunics had been torn to free wounded 
arms, breeches had been ripped for access 
to injured legs, boots had been discarded in 
favour of huge carpet slippers or bandages, 
heads were swathed, jaws tied up, bandages 
stained with dirt and blood. 

Almost every boy was clay-caked, the 
hair full of yellow clayey dust, the face 
thinly crusted with it, the moustache partly 
embedded in it. One Jock I subsequently 
found with puttees caked to the legs which 
were covered with set clay as evenly as a 
plaster-of-Paris limb. 

" Good morning, boys," we called as soon 
as we were within speaking distance. 

And a very volley, a regular cheer came 
to our white-clad, white-capped party. 
" Good morning, sisters." 
330 



A BIG PUSH JULY 1916 

" We'll soon have you fixed up." 

"That's all right. We've shifted them, 
so it's worth it." 

The first batch of patients we treated 
stands out in any memory. They were fed, 
bathed, put into clean pyjamas, had their 
wounds dressed, were each given Blighty 
tickets and cigarettes, and lay with faces 
expressive of the personification of blissful 
contentment. 

Presumably, they had reached the acme 
of Tommy Atkins satisfaction. But no ! 
A gramophone in adjoining lines struck up 
a song associated with limelight, red noses, 
checked suits, flat long-soled boots, and 
knotty walking-sticks. Immediately those 
boys howled out the chorus. Their cup of 
joy was full. 

On and on we worked, forgetful of time 
and remembering our own meal only as we 
became exhausted. Trestle beds with a 
paliasse, or donkey's breakfast, as the boys 
call them, had been laid down in the wards. 
The church tent, the store tent, and the 
Y.M.C.A. hut had been requisitioned, and 
some Indian marquees sprang up infinitely 

331 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

more quickly than the proverbial mush- 
room. 

These took the slight cases of which, 
fortunately, there was a very large propor- 
tion. The expansion, also fortunately, was 
a matter of speed in treatment rather than 
excess of numbers. 

Every one " mucked in " in that magnifi- 
cent whole-hearted way British people have 
when they are " up against " anything. 
Armchair critics who love to talk about 
" red tape " ought to have seen the work 
being done. Rank and officialdom were 
forgotten, chiefly by those who held the one 
and were held responsible for the other. 
Every one turned with enthusiasm to the 
task they had in hand. Stately methods 
of procedure were most emphatically and 
unceremoniously dropped. In a big push, 
in battle, there comes a time, I understand, 
when it is " every man for himself." In 
the aftermath of a big push, in hospital, it 
is at all time " every man and woman for 
* the men.' " And that has to have direct 
interpretation, whereas in more leisurely 
times a certain section of the staff, the 
332 



A BIG PUSH JULY 1916 

clerical and the stores section, for example, 
must, of course, work indirectly for the 
boys. 

Whatever our hand found to do on that 
memorable day and the four following days, 
we did with all our might. Our colonel 
and medical major, kept waiting a few 
minutes in the middle of the night for a 
convoy they were to receive, put off their 
coats and helped cut bread and butter for 
the coming patients. 

A dentist, finished his dental work, did 
nursing-orderly duty far through the night. 
The padre ladled out soup and tea, at which 
he said he was an expert through long 
practice in soup kitchens and at Sunday 
School teas. He ran about unceasingly, 
too, giving patients drinks, quite a big item 
in the case of newly wounded men and 
with the weather very hot. 

He also acted as additional barber and 
went round with safety razor preparing for 
our further attention, surrounding surfaces 
of wounds on shin, cheek, jaw, and head. 

" My word, sister," we were repeatedly 
assured, " that razor's a treat ; it's a cham- 

333 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

pion. And the padre ! " mentioning in an 
impressed undertone the decoration he wore 
and the rank he held " Sister, he's a real 
toff. The right sort o' sky-pilot, he is. 
One o' the best." 

Then, in true Tommy Atkins spirit of 
refusing to be impressed for too long a 
time, there would come a little chuckle, 
and, " Say, Sister, eeh, eeh, eeh, should I 
offer him tuppence ? ' r 

Laughter, tears, immense satisfaction and 
pleasure, immeasurable pain and disappoint- 
ment were commingled that day. One lived 
very many times in a torrent of emotion, 
agonized by a flood of pity, racked by an 
intensity of sympathy, tortured by an ex- 
quisite, mental pain, almost overwhelmed by 
the passion to help to fight for those lives. 

Oneself at such times lives through an 
acuteness of mental suffering hitherto un- 
paralleled in life, and one strange, curious 
self is busily concerned with steriliser and 
instruments, dishes and lotions, hot-water 
bottles, extra blankets and black coffee. 
Then later a chance description of one's self 
travels back as gossip will do. 
334 



A BIG PUSH JULY 1916 

" She's one of those calm, collected sort 
of beings who would have made a good 
surgeon. Doesn't fuss, you know." 

As ithers see us ! 

Fortunately. 

So the day wore on and night came. 
Without a night of glorious July summer, 
with palest saffron, flamingo and purple 
lights, and one gem-like star, a night of 
ineffable beauty and peace, and within a 
vision of Hell, cruel flesh-agony, hideous 
writhings, broken moanings, a boy-child 
sitting up in bed gibbering and pulling off 
his head bandages, a young Colonial cough- 
ing up his last life-blood, a big, so lately 
strong man with ashen face and blue lips, 
lying quite still but for a little fluttering 
breathing. 

The boy goes to the theatre to be trephined 
he later made an excellent recovery the 
night sister takes charge of the Colonial and 
his neighbour ; the medical officer asks me 
to have a man's name put on the D.I. list. 
" No hope." 

"Sonny, I'm giving out field-service post 
cards," I tell him. " Perhaps you would 

335 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

like me to write yours and save you the 
trouble. I'm just taking your mother's 
address from your pay-book." 

Three photographs drop out, a mother 
and father in " Sunday-best " clothes, an 
elder brother, a gunner, and " Yours, Alice." 
The boy rouses himself from his listlessness 
to tell me she is " the best girl in the world, 
a munition worker " proudly " making 
thirty shillings a week." 

As I write the address, put away his pay- 
book, and moisten his lips, the faces float 
before my eyes. Alice would weep, but 
the mother and father would just look 
numbly into the fire. For them there would 
be no outlet in a passion of grief, only an 
aching, gnawing want to hear the voice, 
see the well-set-up figure and the laughing 
face, that dreary want to be endured so 
long as life lasted. And the gunner would 
tighten his lips and feed the guns more deter- 
minedly. 

The electric lights are shaded to facilitate 
and invite sleep. The dressings are now only 
minor ones, and we carry round a tray, and 
dress by the aid of hurricane lamp and 
886 



A BIG PUSH JULY 1916 

flashlight. Finally we come to the last one, 
and leave the patients to the night staff. 

" Any help required ? " we ask our neigh- 
bours in adjoining lines. 

" No, every one seems to have finished." 
So we turn towards the quarters. 

For a time no one speaks. Then, " What 
a wastage of human life ! " comes somewhat 
bitterly ; " a useless waste ! " 

" Never ! " comes another voice passion- 
ately, the tone indicating the strain endured 
during the long, long day. 

" How can the gift of those lives be called 
a * useless waste ' ? Is it a waste for men to 
fight, to suffer, and to die for all that they 
hold dear their liberty, their ideals, and 
their loved ones ? God made man in His 
own image, a little lower than the angels. 
I've realised that fact anew to-day. I've 
seen that Man can ascend to almost God- 
like heights, to realms of sublimity un- 
suspected. 

" To-day's stories of the fighting, told to 
us red-hot from the lips of the boys who 
have lived them, those stories and the many 
little incidents we have all witnessed, have 

Y 337 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

shown us that, while war may be a great 
wastage, it is also a great purifier. It has 
brought out valour indescribable, self-sacri- 
fice unforgettable, patience and magnificent 
endurance untellable. And are these nothing 
worth ? 

" I have heard little scraps of conversa- 
tion to-day. I have seen little acts of 
self-sacrifice, kindliness and thoughtfulness 
between the men, that have made me feel 
reverent. There may be brutality, bestiality, 
fiendish recklessness, devilish remorseless- 
ness, anguishing mutilation and destruction 
in war, but to-day I have met fortitude, 
devotion, self-abnegation, that has brought 
with it an atmosphere of sanctity, of holi- 
ness. 

" I am too tired to sleep, too tired to do 
anything but lie and look up at the wooden 
roof of the hut, too tired to do anything 
but think, think, think, too tired to shut 
out of sight and mind the passionate appeal 
of two dying eyes, and a low faint whisper 
of ' Sister, am I going to die ? ' 

" But, oh, how glad I am to have lived 
through this day ! With the stinging acute 
338 



A BIG PUSH JULY 1916 

pain of all its experiences raw on me, I 
say it has been a privilege to undergo these 
sensations. For the pain will pass, since 
all pain ultimately dies, but what will endure 
for ever is the memory of the nobility, the 
grandeur, the approach to divinity we have 
all seen. It has made better women of us 
all ; it has brought knowledge to our under- 
standing, life to our ideals, light to our 
soul." 



339 



CHAPTER XXXI 
"PROCEED FORTHWITH" 

" THE hospital has been accepted by the 
Americans, and will be taken over within 
a fortnight." 

The official news came like a metaphorical 
5*9, notwithstanding the fact that we knew 
the offer had been made. We had not, 
indeed, attached a great deal of importance 
to the fact, for the floating of rumours and 
the discussion of possibilities, many of which 
latter never even reach the stage of proba- 
bilities, are quite the recognised thing in the 
army. 

Having lived happily, and worked still 
more happily in the one hospital for twenty 
strenuous and crowded months, we had all 
grown to love, if not actually " every stick 
and stone " of the place, at any rate their 
equivalent marquees and tent-pegs. So we 
340 






r<r 

'& 



A CORNER OF THE NTTHSING QUARTERS WITH A WIGWAM AND 
TWO " HEN-COOPS " IN THE DISTANCE 



" PROCEED FORTHWITH " 

had deluded ourselves like the Micawbers, 
with the idea that " something would turn 
up " in our favour, that the Americans 
might not accept our particular hospital, 
that it was too large for a unit new to active 
service, that it might be too far from their 
base any old reason would do. 

Then following on the news came the 
order to hold ourselves " in readiness to 
proceed forthwith." What did "forthwith" 
mean ? It might mean two hours, half a 
day, a day, three days. At present it 
couldn't be translated as anything more 
explicit than " forthwith." 

Meantime the nursing staff was sent about 
its business of packing, and while the hut 
resounded with the scufflings of twelve busy 
inmates reminiscent of the tossings and paw- 
ings of twelve unruly horses in twelve circum- 
scribed loose boxes, one sister told the historic 
tale of the nurses who had received similar 
instructions to " proceed forthwith " to the 
War Office. No. 1 went immediately in a 
taxi, No. 2 presented herself in the evening 
of the same day, No. 3 arrived next morning, 
while No. 4 came at the end of three days. 

343 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

It is all very well in song to pack up your 
troubles in your old kit-bag, but it is the 
packing of the kit-bag with overflowing kit 
that is the trouble. One collects a wonder- 
ful accumulation of impedimenta word de- 
liberately chosen -in twenty months, even 
if one does live in a bell-tent or in a bunk 
which measures only 6 ft. by 10 ft. Hence 
vacillating owners stand indecisively over 
piles of clothing and equipment, keeping 
articles " that really might prove useful " 
and frequently don't while discarding others 
for which " there is absolutely no room 
whatever," only to find that they are the 
very articles most required a couple of days 
later. The Belgian scrub-women receive 
enough discarded garments to set up an 
old clo' establishment. 

" Can any one lend me anything to poke 
out drawing-pins ? " asks a voice, the owner 
betraying a typically active-service disregard 
of the nature of the article supplied, or the 
person who supplies it. 

All penknives and scissors seemingly being 
already engaged, " Use a safety-pin," she 
is advised. And so armed she sets to work 
344 



" PROCEED FORTHWITH " 

to take down her Kirchner girls, her Bairns- 
father drawings, her khaki portrait gallery, 
and her family snapshots. 

u Lend me a tin-opener or a safety-pin, 
Baby," calls another voice. 

44 In a moment," " Baby " replies. " I've 
just discovered that all my stockings are 
holed and I'm deciding to wear two pairs, 
so that the holes of the one may not coincide 
with the holes of the other. Like most 
riders, it takes a little working out." 

" I'm glad it is cooler weather," remarks 
the Sensible Girl, who always gives us good 
advice. " We can wear more clothes and 
so save packing." 

44 Packing ! I'm fed with it, and yet I'm 
surrounded still with things," grumbles one 
voice. 

44 Oh, it's the limit ! " growls the second. 

44 1 would I were a daisy," croons the 
third sadly. 

44 You'd still be liable to be uprooted," 
comes the level tones of the Sensible Girl 
in w r ell-timed reminder. 

Clothing and personal equipment packed, 
the camp furniture is next induced into the 

345 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

kit-bag. Certain sturdy wenches undertook 
this onerous task of inducement themselves, 
but, remembering the treacherous behaviour 
of beds that fold in concertina fashion, and 
of camp baths that collapse like a violin 
stand, I seek out skilled labour in the person 
of a long-established batman who has helped 
very many sisters to " proceed forthwith " 
to hospital train, hospital ships and casualty 
clearing- station. 

He deals firmly with the furniture and 
summarily with the kit-bag, so much so 
that it and the two other bundles regulations 
allow are soon quite ready. 

" Your orders have come through to- 
night, movement orders to-morrow." I am 
told subsequently, a list of other nurses 
" proceeding forthwith " being enumerated. 

" We're lucky not to be moved en masse. 
Remember the night sixty-four sisters left 
No. Q ? " We are not likely to forget it, 
for the quarters were a second Caledonian 
Market of trunks, valises, suit-cases, spare 
deck-chairs, spare tables, buckets, wash- 
basins, vases, straw mats, small rugs, home- 
made stools, packing-box furniture, great 
346 



" PROCEED FORTHWITH " 

sausage-like kit-bags strained to bursting 
point, inadequate holdalls and self- advertis- 
ing contents, discarded hats, boots and 
lingerie overflowing the refuse bins, a perfect 
plethora of impedimenta surrounding the 
mess, the huts, and lying round under the 
trees. 

" A few parrots in cages would complete 
the picture," remarked one flippant V.A.D. 

Early on the morning following the coming 
of our orders, the cars drew up at our 
quarters, and it became our turn to " get 
moving." Our own kit-bags, stuffed to the 
furthest limit with our beloved Lares and 
Penates, are dragged out. Our own holdalls 
demonstrate an expressive and contradictory 
title, for they give positive proof of holding 
much, and they give evident signs of allowing 
much to escape. Suit-cases, attache cases, 
wooden boxes, coats, mackintoshes, and 
lastly ourselves are packed into the various 
waiting cars. 

We have said good-byes, and give a last 
look round at our dearly loved hospital, 
where we have been so happy, at the grey, 
sun-glinted marquees wherein we have spent 

347 



A V.A.D. IN FRANCE 

so many wonderful, life-pulsating months, 
at our wooden shacks, our Hans and Gretel 
" sugar houses," " wigwams," " hen-coops," 
and " rabbit-hutches " nestling under the 
trees. The sorry feeling, a bedrock sorry 
feeling, will not be gainsaid, when : 

" You're forgetting your iron rations," 
excitedly calls one of the home sisters. 
" You will be glad of these about eleven 
o'clock to-night when you have drowned 
your grief and are ready to sit up and take 
nourishment." 

She hands up to us an active-service size 
biscuit tin tightly packed with sandwiches, 
another, also out-size, filled with bread 
and butter, together with a bag of hard-boiled 
eggs. These we ourselves have supplemented 
with a supply of fruit, one or two cut cakes, 
and the contents of sundry thermos flasks. 

The foremost driver cranks his car, the 
rest follow suit. A group of sisters, batmen, 
and dogs are speeding us on our parting 
way. 

" Good-bye, good luck, and cheerio," calls 
some one. We bid more good-byes, and 
wave others. The car starts. Peter, the 
348 



-PROCEED FORTHWITH" 

camp pet, a " dog of sorts " several sorts, 
including, more especially, a good sort 
jumps on the seat beside us and licks franti- 
cally our faces which we have just washed. 
We caress him ere we regretfully bundle him 
out, and away we go, Peter with flopping 
ears and lolling tongue racing after us in 
a cloud of dust. 

We are proceeding forthwith. 



RETURN TO the circulation desk ot any 
University of California Library 

or to the 

NORTHERN REGIONAL LIBRARY FACILITY 
Bldg. 400, Richmond Field Station 
University of California 
Richmond, CA 94804-4698 

ALL BOOKS MAY BE RECALLED AFTER 7 DAYS 

2-month loans may be renewed by calling 
(510)642-6753 

1-year loans may be recharged by bringing 
books to NRLF 

Renewals and recharges may be made 4 
days prior to due date. 

DUE AS STAMPED BELOW 

JAN 1 6 19S9 



SENT ON ILL 



JUN 2 6 2001 



U. C. BERKELEY 



12,000(11/95) 5Y 



51130 



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY